GWANGJU– A new women’s professional volleyball team has found its home in the southern metropolitan city of Gwangju.
Gwangju and the new V-League team, to be run by Pepper Savings Bank, reached an agreement on Thursday to bring professional volleyball for the first time to the city located 330 kilometers south of Seoul.
When Pepper Savings Bank first expressed its interest in founding a team in March, Gwangju approached the Korean Volleyball Federation (KOVO), the governing body of the pro league, about hosting the club.
The city submitted its formal letter of intent in April. Pepper Savings Bank got the green light to join the V-League on April 20, and the city got its wish three weeks later.
Gwangju is currently home to the Kia Tigers in professional baseball and Gwangju FC in men’s professional football. It once had men’s and women’s pro basketball teams but they have since relocated, leaving Gwangju without a winter pro sports team since 2006.
Gwangju said it already has strong infrastructure in place. Yeomju Gymnasium, once a multipurpose venue, has been recently remodeled as a volleyball-only facility, and the adjacent Bitgoeul Gymnasium can serve as the practice court.
The KOVO and six existing women’s V-League teams had urged Pepper Savings Bank to look for a home outside the greater Seoul area and help expand the reach of the sport to different corners of the country.
Gwangju is currently home to 90 amateur volleyball clubs and has 120 players at elementary, middle and high schools and on semi-pro teams.
To mark the beginning of the partnership, Pepper Savings Bank CEO Matthew Chang donated 100 million won (US$88,520) to help develop young volleyball players in the Gwangju region.
The new team also finalized its coaching staff. Lee Sung-hee, former head coach of two other women’s clubs, GS Caltex and KGC, was named the top assistant, while Lee Kyung-soo, interim boss for the men’s team KB Insurance last season, joined as an assistant. Kim Hyung-sil, the women’s national team head coach at the 2012 London Olympics, was named the new team’s head coach late last month.
Pepper Savings Bank selected Elizabet Inneh Varga in a recent foreign player draft, and the expansion draft for homegrown players is scheduled for Friday.
Pepper Savings Bank will be able to pluck one player each from the six current clubs, who have each protected nine from the expansion draft.
The new team will join the V-League in the 2021-2022 season and will also compete at the KOVO Cup tournament starting in August.
Source: Yonhap News Agency