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Pro football league to allow practice matches between clubs starting Tuesday

All News 21:11 April 20, 2020

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, April 20 (Yonhap) -- Starting Tuesday, South Korean professional football clubs will be allowed to play practice matches against one another, as their league inches closer to opening the season that has been delayed for nearly two months by the coronavirus.

The Korean Professional Football League, or simply the K League, made the announcement Monday evening. With such short notice, clubs may not be able to play a match immediately on Tuesday, but there will likely be a few later in the week.

There are 12 teams in the top-flight K League 1 and 10 more in the K League 2. The K League 1 season was slated to kick off on Feb. 29, but with the coronavirus raging, the league office postponed it indefinitely five days prior to the original start date.

This image provided by the Korea Professional Football League on April 7, 2020, shows the league's emblem promoting the use of masks and social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

And on March 17, the K League issued a ban on practice matches between clubs. They have been limited to practices and scrimmages since then.

"This is the news we've been waiting for," one club official said in response to the K League's announcement. "We'll be in touch with other teams tomorrow to try to schedule some matches."

As preventive measures, fans will not be allowed to attend these matches. And media access will also be limited, with a maximum of three journalists permitted to cover each contest. They must maintain a distance of at least two meters from players or coaches during interviews, and all media sessions must be conducted outdoors.

Reporters will be required to contact the home club of the match they intend to cover at least one day ahead of time. It wasn't immediately clear how the three journalists per match will be chosen.

During matches, players will be barred from talking to their teammates or other players, and also from shaking hands with referees before and after matches.

Teams will also be required to prepare space to quarantine players or any match-day personnel who test positive for COVID-19 or show symptoms, and to have medical staff on hand.

This file photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League on April 2, 2020, shows a K League 1 match for Suwon Samsung Bluewings underway at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, 45 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Since postponing the start of the season, the K League and its clubs met just once, on March 30, to discuss a new schedule. They've agreed in principle to shorten the season from 38 matches to as few as 27 matches, but they never came close to setting even a rough timetable on when the season can get off the ground.

They received a boost from the government on Sunday. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said, while the national social distancing campaign will be extended by two weeks, outdoor sports games may be played with safety measures in place, such as keeping fans out of stadiums.

The league is expected to sit down with club representatives soon and determine the new start date. A mid-May kickoff with no fans in the stands seems to be the likely scenario.

One other major pro sport, baseball, will begin its preseason on Tuesday. And also on Tuesday, the Korea Baseball Organization is expected to announce the new regular season start date, possibly May 1. It was supposed to begin on March 28.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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