Japan sports leagues ask govt to ease COVID curbs on crowd numbers

Japan’s top baseball and soccer leagues asked the government on Tuesday to ease restrictions on the number of fans who can attend games amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since July 10, up to 5,000 fans have been allowed into stadiums for J.League soccer matches and Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) games but at a joint news conference on Tuesday the leagues asked for that number to be increased to 20,000.

“We have been doing well, while changing our guidelines to ensure that spectators can enjoy a safe and secure environment. That has been effective,” NPB Commissioner Atsushi Saito said.

Games had initially been held in empty stadiums when the NPB season began after a three-month delay in June, while the J.League resumed in early July after a four-month break.

Both leagues have seen individual cases of infections among players and staff but have avoided large clusters of infections.

While allowing reduced numbers of fans at venues has gone smoothly, getting more spectators through the doors would come as a boost not only to the teams but also local businesses.

Japan’s economy sank deeper into its worst post-war contraction in the second quarter as the pandemic jolted businesses more than initially thought.

As of Tuesday, Japan has had over 73,000 confirmed novel coronavirus cases, resulting in 1,393 deaths.

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