Japanese football, baseball to start allowing fans at games

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s professional baseball and football leagues will begin allowing fans this week, the heads of both leagues said yesterday.

Football and baseball officials said the first day with fans will be on Friday. The maximum number will be 5,000 or 50 per cent of the stadium capacity — whichever is smaller.

Officials said they plan to allow stadiums to be filled to 50 per cent capacity beginning on August 1.

“We will keep a close eye on this guideline to see if it changes significantly,” said Head of J-League Mitsuru Murai. “If there are no major changes, we’ll proceed with the original plan.”

Professor at Tohoku Medical and Pharmaceutical University Mitsuo Kaku was optimistic in an online news conference with league officials.

File photo shows players gather in the empty stands prior to a baseball game between the Yomiuri Giants and the Hanshin Tigers at the Tokyo Dome. PHOTO: AP

“Of course, we have to keep an eye on the infection situation, but I think it is necessary to try this,” he said. “We are in the situation where we need to continue to run social and economic activities while managing risks.”

Japanese baseball opened its season on June 19, and football resumed on Saturday after a four-month delay. The soccer J-League played one round of matches before the season was stopped in February.

Professor of infectious disease at Aichi Medical University Hiroshige Mikamo put the responsibility on the fans.

“The teams, staff, and player have worked really hard to protect the sporting culture,”he said.

“Now it’s the audience’s turn to make the effort.”