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Here’s the bottom line on the Big 4

Sports& Business
June 01,2015
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In Korea, football, baseball, basketball and volleyball are considered the top four sports, but which represents the biggest industry?

According to a report by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism last month, revenue from Korea’s top four sports was 4.028 trillion won ($3.63 billion) last year, and football turned out to be the biggest cash generator at 1.98 trillion won, followed by baseball (1.06 trillion won), basketball (655 billion won) and volleyball (323 billion won).

“Baseball, basketball and volleyball had their largest revenue from service-related businesses, while football’s was from merchandise wholesaling,” said the report.

This is the first time the government has researched the top four sports.

It ordered the Korea Institute of Sports Science (KISS), under the Korea Sports Promotion Foundation, to research the issue and the results were released on May 21. KISS did a sample survey of 2,000 businesses from December through April.

According to the report, 11,034 businesses were related to the four sports and just like the size of the sales, football had the most associated businesses with 4,916, followed by basketball (2,586), baseball (2,381) and volleyball (1,751).

Rankings for the number of workers was identical. However, the report said more than 80 percent of the businesses had fewer than 10 employees.

Professional leagues accounted for 1.45 trillion won, or 36.1 percent, of total revenue for the top four sports last year, the report said. In terms of sales related to professional leagues, baseball generated 563 billion won, followed by football (509 billion won), basketball (216 billion won) and volleyball (165 billion won).

Revenue related to the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) accounted for 52.9 percent of the sport’s total. In football, however, sales involving the K-League, the nation’s top professional football league, were just 25.6 percent of total football-related revenue.

KISS also looked at how often people “engage” with these sports. The institute surveyed a total of 5,253 people.

Although football had the largest industry, it was not the best at engaging its fan base. Fans said they went to an average of 4.7 matches per year, the lowest level among the four sports. Basketball had the highest fan engagement rate at 7.7 games per year, followed by baseball (7.1) and volleyball (6.6).

Football also saw the lowest expenditure per fan: an average of 165,647 won per year. Baseball fans said they spent an average of 344,964 won at stadiums per year, followed by basketball fans (329,594 won) and volleyball fans (202,339 won).

In addition, football also had the least amount of time spent per day watching broadcasts of matches, with an average of 1.7 hours. Baseball fans watched an average of 2.4 hours per day followed by both basketball and volleyball at 2 hours.

However, those surveyed said they had played football for an average of 8.1 years, ahead of basketball (7.8 years), baseball (5.8 years) and volleyball (5.4 years).

The results suggest football has a sizeable and loyal fan base, but needs better marketing.

In terms of fans’ satisfaction with sports facilities, all four sports were considered “average,” while fans picked “improving game quality” as their top priority for a better viewing experience.

The ministry said the main study of the 2014 sports industry will begin this month and will recommend development measures for each sport by the end of the year.

The government has been working hard to foster Korea’s sports industry, while President Park Geun-hye also has promised to boost the industry.

“Sports is a future industry where we can create a larger value with the development of other related industries,” Park said last year at the opening ceremony of the National Sports Festival. “We will actively support R&D regarding sports and find prospective businesses to make the sports industry a new growth engine.”

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]