Seoul’s Newest Professional Sports Team – Seoul E-Land FC
When the new K-League season kick-offs in March there will be one new face amongst the teams competing for Korea’s top soccer prizes. Or rather there won’t be, as the luck of the draw has seen them given a rest week in week 1 of what will be the 11 team K-League Challenge (Korea’s 2nd Division) in 2015 – but you get my drift anyway.
The team has been founded by the E-Land Group (owners of a whole raft of fashion and leisure brands such as Ashley restaurants, NC Department Stores, Brenntano and Teenie Weenie and Who.A.U.) as a completely new entity and will be based in Seoul’s Olympic Stadium in Jamsil which is hurriedly being prepared to host their 20 home league games during 2015.
Since it was founded in the middle of 2014, the management of the team has been working hard to make all the necessary arrangements not just to put a team on the field this year but also to connect and engage with football fans in Korea (both local and expat) to get behind the team. Unlike a lot of Korean soccer teams, they are focusing strongly on the supporters and marketing the team heavily to the local community.
They’ve even appointed an expat manager in the shape of Martin Rennie – a Scot who was previously head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS before being tempted to come to Korea and take the helm of E-Land. He has been beavering away over the past few months to get up to speed with the game in Korea and also to put together a squad of 28 players from scratch.
The players have come via a whole host of routes. Players have been picked up from university football via the draft, others have been poached from other K-League teams while a few have been brought in from overseas such as Trinidadian defender Carlyle Mitchell, Jamaican forward Ryan Johnson, and the Irish-Japanese Robert Cullen. The team even held open trials during the Winter to allow any budding hopefuls to try-out in front of Rennie in the hope of landing a contract.
Although the team starts life in the 2nd division they’ve even been able to recruit a few high profile players in the shape of Korean internationalists, goalkeeper Kim Young Kwang and midfielder Kim Jae Sung. Both of these signings should spark some interest in the team and should help to shift some season tickets – which are now on sale as part of the Founders’ Club promotion the club are running.
Everyone who buys a season ticket in the inaugural year becomes a member of the Founders’ Club which will give them some special rewards, access to special events and discounts for some of the E-Land groups other businesses. As an example of the kind of thing the club are doing, they held a dinner for a group of Founder’s Club members with Martin Rennie last weekend – and yours truly was part of the lucky group!
This was a unique opportunity for fans to meet the coach and ask whatever questions were on their mind as well as enjoy the sights of the Han River on the E-Land Cruise. Martin Rennie was very friendly with the fans and very open in answering the questions that were posed to him – giving us all some insights into his views on football and coaching in general as well as his experiences so far in Korea. Everyone seemed to have a good time – and we just about managed to hear each other over the sound of the Korean entertainer torturing a cover of Abba’s Chiquitita.
One thing the backroom staff were very clear about was their hope to attract more expats to the games. They are doing their best to provide information to expat fans in English through their website and Facebook pages and you can expect to see more marketing and maybe some special event aimed primarily at the expat community.
It’s clear that E-Land are trying to do something very different with their approach in engaging with their customers – whether they be Korean or Expat – and that can only be a good thing. The marketing of soccer in Korea to date has been largely non-existent so there is definitely an opportunity there for someone to exploit. If you are interested in going along to a game or in becoming a Founder Member then you can find out more information at www.seoulelandfc.com – you will certainly be more than welcome at Jamsil. The historic first home fixture will take place on Sunday 29th March vs FC Anyang. Hope to see you there!