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Football chief names new executives in hopes of improving communication

By Yonhap

Published : May 3, 2023 - 11:39

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Korea Football Association President Chung Mong-gyu speaks at a press conference at the KFA House in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap) Korea Football Association President Chung Mong-gyu speaks at a press conference at the KFA House in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Beleaguered South Korean football chief Chung Mong-gyu introduced new executives for the sport's national federation Wednesday, with an aim to improve communication.

Chung, head of the Korea Football Association, made the personnel changes in the aftermath of the organization's ill-advised attempt to reinstate former players, coaches and referees suspended for misconduct, including match fixing.

At a press conference at the KFA House in Seoul, Chung attributed problems from the controversial move to lack of communication within the organization and said he wanted to ensure different viewpoints would be represented at the KFA.

"In bringing new faces aboard, I felt communication was the most important aspect," Chung said. "I made sure to recruit people from many different backgrounds so that we'd be able to listen to a wide range of perspectives."

Chung had been under fire since the KFA's executive committee said on March 28 that it had decided to pardon 100 former and active players, coaches, and officials who had been disciplined for match fixing and other mishaps.

The KFA announced the decision about an hour before the kickoff between South Korea and Uruguay in a friendly at Seoul World Cup Stadium on March 28, leading critics of the move to believe the KFA was trying to sneak it past football fans and media while they were caught up in the buildup for the match.

The KFA was also penned for not having prior consultation and then offering a dubious explanation that it wanted to celebrate South Korea's appearance in the round of 16 at last year's FIFA World Cup by pardoning the suspended individuals.

Chung did an about-face just three days later on March 31. Then, the following week, the entire leadership group at the KFA below Chung, including all vice presidents and directors on the executive committee, submitted resignations.

Chung admitted he had contemplated joining those others in resigning and holding himself accountable, before deciding against it to help steady the wobbly ship.

"As someone with the biggest responsibility in this situation, I thought long and hard about stepping down," Chung said. "But since I have 20 months left on my term, I decided that staying on and stabilizing the situation was the best I could do for Korean football. I wanted to minimize the administrative vacuum and put together a new leadership group as soon as possible."

Chung, who has been at the KFA helm since 2013, said he hadn't yet thought about whether to run for another term.

Some members of the executive committee had earlier complained that their arguments against the reinstatement were ignored. Mindful of such criticism, Chung said his objective moving forward is to "listen to as many different opinions as possible, from inside and outside the football community."

Chung defended the clandestine nature of the controversial meeting from March, saying the KFA wanted to keep certain information confidential beforehand.

As for claims that some opinions fell on deaf ears during the March meeting, Chung said, "In our debate culture, it can be difficult for some people to speak up, and some are more accustomed to speaking behind others' backs.

"I think these changes are significant in that people from all sorts of backgrounds will be involved in the decision-making process," Chung added. "And I think this will add depth to our discussions."

Former Second Vice Sports Minister Kim Jeong-bae was named as one of five new vice presidents, with two being retained despite mass resignation offers.

"There are many different channels through which we can listen to people from the field, and the executive committee features a few former players," Chung said. "I believe Vice President Kim will act as the conduit and bridge between different sectors."

Of the KFA's eight subcommittees, three welcomed new heads, while the top spot for the referees committee remained vacant. The KFA also changed 10 of the 11 directors on its executive committee.

Asked why he decided to retain a few executives instead of going with a new slate, Chung said: "I felt having some continuity was also important. It's inappropriate to think that we had to replace the entire executive committee to bring about meaningful changes.

The committee includes two active players in Lee Keun-ho, former men's national team mainstay, and Ji So-yun, the women's national team star and the country's all-time leading scorer with 66 goals in 144 matches.

Lee and Ji are, respectively, male and female presidents of FIFPro Korea, the professional football players' union.

"They represent professional players in the country," Chung said. "Obviously, the KFA should be listening to what players have to say."(Yonhap)