The league has been entangled in embezzlement charges and seen its coaches physically abuse players. But nothing will come close to the match-fixing scandal that has disgraced the league, embarrassed Korean sport and disappointed thousands of loyal fans who watched the corruption take place in front of their eyes.
The Korean Volleyball Federation (KOVO) has already come out strongly and ended Seongnam Sangmu Shinhyup’s season, forcing the military team to forfeit its 10 remaining games.
Sangmu has been accused of standing at the epicenter of the scandal because its players are believed to be more vulnerable to financial temptations as they earn less money than other professionals.
Prosecutors have also taken three players into custody. As of yesterday, three active and two former players of Suwon Kepco 45 in addition to one current Seongnam Sangmu Shinhyup player are being questioned for allegedly making mistakes on purpose in exchange for cash from gambling brokers.
On Monday, KOVO held its disciplinary committee meeting and handed lifetime bans to four active players. The federation also decided it will impose lifetime bans on any player implicated in the scandal.
The league didn’t stop there.
Later that day, KOVO organized a special resolution meeting with some 370 players, coaching staff and club officials from 12 men’s and women’s teams, excluding Sangmu, and took oaths to never engage in such activities.
However, even with the organization’s efforts to clean up the league and create a better image, the impact of match-fixing has already left a stain on the league.
Sangmu is currently in talks to disband altogether, but even if they don’t how can the fan base, which has been growing steadily, recover from such a disgrace?
Last year, the V-League’s seven men’s teams and six women’s clubs set a single-season attendance record of about 345,549 fans at 188 games. This spring, the league was expected to surpass that attendance record.
The match-fixing scandal will almost certainly set this trend back, as it should.
And good luck to the KOVO as it searches for a company to sponsor the Seoul Dream Six, which has had no mother company since Woori Capital split from the team last July due to financial difficulties.
It was reported that several companies were interested in buying the Dream Six, but in this kind of situation who would want to put their company name on the front of a team playing in a league where players display such a low level of morality?
Making things worse, the corruption is snowballing as the investigation goes on. It seems this could be just the beginning of a painful reality.
Three more current Sangmu players may have also been involved, while speculation grows of women players taking part in match-rigging schemes.
For a small professional league like the V-League, if more players are found guilty, the season may be cancelled altogether. Could it ever recover from that?
To put an end to this ugly incident, the government must crack down hard on where the scandal all began in the first place: illegal gambling Web sites.
Arresting players and gambling brokers is a step in the right direction, but the root must be pulled before it haunts us again in the near future.
The league must also make a statement to players that earning extra cash by manipulating games may provide a larger spending budget, but it will destroy a career as quickly as it tarnishes a sport