Why K League referees are usually environmental officers, but only referee on match days

While Jürgen Klinsmann (GER), the former head coach of the South Korean national soccer team, has been known to take time off from his day job to work in broadcasting, most referees have other jobs to make ends meet. For them, refereeing is a second job.

Jung Dong-sik, 44, who made headlines for his resemblance to national defender Kim Min-jae, who plays for Bayern Munich in German professional soccer, also has a day job. He’s an environmental beautification officer in Seocho-gu, Seoul, and his job is to clean up the neighborhoods of Seocho-gu on his motorcycle every day. After work, 스포츠토토 he works at a quick service restaurant.

A K League 1 referee is paid 2 million won per game. Some people might say that referees are paid 2 million won per game, but they say it’s God’s job. You can’t referee every game.

In the next round after the refereeing assignment, you have to serve as a standby referee or video assistant referee (VAR), which costs 500,000 to 600,000 won. The annual salary of a K League 1 referee for 38 rounds, including the final round, is about 48 million won before taxes. For a head of household in his 40s, that’s not enough to feed his family.

A K League 2 (2nd Division) assistant referee, who receives an allowance of 550,000 won, earns only 8.8 million won before taxes even if he is assigned a full 36-round season. Mr. A, a K League 2 assistant referee who works as an office worker on weekdays and referees on game days, said, “I was really upset when fans criticized referees for playing two jobs. It would be great if we could make a living doing nothing but refereeing,” he said.

Furthermore, it takes a minimum of 10 years and an average of 15 years to earn the title of professional referee. Players have to start at the third level (fifth level for the general public) and work their way up to the first level, and after that, they have to be well-regarded by officiating college games and other events to get the chance to officiate in the K4 League (fourth division). The allowance for a K4 League referee is 165,000 won. For those who dream of becoming a K League referee, two-jobs and three-jobs are not an option but a necessity.

The average salary for a referee in the English Premier League (EPL) is €110,000, according to British media outlet GiveMeSports. In the German Bundesliga, it’s €125,000, and in Spain’s Primera Liga, it’s a whopping €250,000. As you can see, the top leagues have created an environment where referees can focus solely on officiating.

Despite this, referee pay in the K League has been frozen for years. The Korea Football Association (KFA) discussed a referee pay increase at its board meeting last November and decided to raise referee pay by 20% for all professional soccer leagues and national competitions, as well as KFA club national competitions and festivals. However, only the K League Cup was excluded from the increase. The KFA, which pays professional referees, rejected the 20% increase.

The Korean Professional Football Referees Council had requested the KFA’s referee management team to recommend an increase to the league ahead of this season, but there was no agreement on the amount of the increase. In response to the league’s rejection of the increase, the referees’ council offered to be assigned to amateur matches ahead of the opening match, but they decided to continue with the schedule as normal for the first three rounds for fear of causing harm to fans and players. The two sides will sit down at the negotiating table once again before the 25th of this month.

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