The Fall of Samsung’s Sports Empire Ignored ’10-Year Warning Tone’

Suwon Samsung, a pro soccer team, was demoted to the second division. This is the first time for Suwon, which once boasted a prestigious pro soccer tradition, since its foundation. It is also a symbolic scene that shows not only soccer but also the current address of Samsung Sports Team, which has been suffering a tragic collapse since the 2010s.

Suwon tied Gangwon 0-0 in the final round B (lower round) of the Hana One Q K League 1 2023 at the Suwon World Cup Stadium on Dec. 2. Suwon FC, which was ranked 11th at the same time, tied Jeju United 1-1 at home. There was no change in their rankings as Suwon Samsung, Suwon FC, and Gangwon, which were competing to remain in the competition, added one point each in the final game.

As a result, Suwon Samsung finished the season ranking 12th with 33 points (8 wins, 9 draws and 21 losses), the lowest ranking team, and confirmed its relegation from the second division directly next season. Gangwon FC (34 points) ranked 10th, while Suwon FC (33 points) ranked 11th with the same points as Suwon Samsung, but was ahead in multiple points. The fate of Gangwon FC will be decided in Gimpo, and Suwon FC will be decided in the promotion and promotion PO with Busan I-Park.

The relegation of Suwon Samsung is a huge shock to the K-League as well. Since its foundation in 1995, Suwon has had a reputation as one of the most popular professional sports clubs in Korea as well as soccer. It has won four K-League 1 titles, five FA Cups, six League Cups, and two Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League titles.

During its heyday, the team swept away star players based on massive investment and support, and was dubbed “Real Suwon” compared to Real Madrid, the prestigious Spanish professional soccer team. It also contributed significantly to leading the K-League’s success with its highly talked-about rivalries, including a Super Match with FC Seoul, a siege match with Jeonbuk Hyundai, a match with Seongnam, and the Suwon Derby with Suwon FC. Suwon fans including its official supporters Frente Tricolo were considered the most enthusiastic fans in the K-League. 안전놀이터

However, as Suwon’s management body moved from the main group to Cheil Worldwide in 2014 just like other sports organizations under Samsung, its decline began gradually. As the team’s management stance changed, the team was bent on maintaining the status quo in the name of efficiency rather than investment to win the championship. Star players left the team one by one, and the youth players that it nurtured were now being robbed by league rivals and overseas clubs.

Suwon’s squad, which was ranked first in total annual salary in the league up until about 10 years ago, fell to eighth place as of 2022, falling to the mid- to low level of the league. Now, Suwon is no longer a club that famous national star players or big-name foreign players want to come as a priority. In addition, the policy to recruit pure-blooded (real blue) coaches, who have experienced playing in the club, has failed one after another and has turned into a “grave of coaches.”

The last time Suwon rose to the top of the league was in 2008, 15 years ago. It occasionally won the FA Cup in the 2010s, but it is no longer easy to see them compete in the league championship. For the past six seasons prior to this year, Suwon ranked 6-8-8-6-10-12 in the league. It has become a team that is more accustomed to jumping to the bottom of the upper split or competing for relegation from the lower split.

Suwon ranked 10th again last season, and had to play the playoff for the first time since its foundation. Although it revived at the risk of relegation by beating FC Anyang, it failed to learn a lesson even after experiencing a major crisis. Notably, it failed to strengthen its capability even after sending Oh Hyun-kyu, the national team’s striker who scored 13 goals last year, to Celtic early this year. In this season’s foreigners’ farming industry, Mülich (4 goals) and Vasani (3 goals) all failed.

Suwon fell to the bottom early on in the 2023 season. As the team had no win (one draw and six losses) in seven consecutive opening games, it immediately replaced Lee Byung-keun. After serving as acting coach Choi Sung-yong, he appointed Kim Byung-soo as the team’s coach, but when his performance did not improve, he was fired again. Unable to find a proper manager, Suwon eventually had a skit by appointing Yeom Ki-hoon, a playing coach and club legend with no experience as its coach at a time when the team was about to be demoted.

Yeom Ki-hoon did well in the last three games with two wins and one draw, but it was not enough to achieve another miracle on the already tilted playground. This is not only due to the manager or players, but in the end, the shortsighted management of the team, which had been consistent only with stopgap measures such as the change of the manager at that time without a definite plan or long-term vision, eventually revealed its limitations.

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