The AFC's new requirement that clubs hold professional contracts with their players will prevent the military-operated club from participating in the top-flight
As the sports division of the South Korean military, Sangju are in the unique position of being the K-League's only non-professional club. Their players are considered to have served their mandatory service after completing a two-year contract with the team as a form of 'alternative service'.
However, that arrangement fell outside of new AFC rules requiring that member clubs have professional contracts with their players. Sangju's continued membership in the K-League would have eventually prevented Korean clubs from participating in the Asian Champions League (ACL).
While the new rules were widely known, the K-League Association chose to wait until this week to announce their decision to demote the club to the semi-professional N-League, which serves as the country's second tier of competition.
"We've decided to refuse to play our remaining matches after consulting with the military service," Sangju executive chief Lee Jae-Cheol said in a press release. "We have no motivation to play, and the attitude of the military service is firm."
Sangju were placed in the K-League's 'Relegation Round' after ending the 30-round regular season in 15th place. The two clubs at the bottom of the table would have been relegated to the N-League; now the last-place team will be relegated along with Sangju.
"I think the association should have been more discreet," Sangju manager Park Hang-Seo told reporters. "I want to say this - let us stay in the K-League if we win the relegation round."
The K-League Association noted in their announcement that Sangju would again become eligible to complete in the K-League if they incorporate and offer professional contracts to their players. The club was scheduled to play away at Daegu on Saturday, September 15.