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Gov't likely to decide on letting fans back into sports games by weekend

All Headlines 14:28 June 25, 2020

SEOUL, June 25 (Yonhap) -- Amid pleas from sports fans and professional teams in dire financial situations, the government will likely decide by as early as the weekend when spectators will be allowed back in sports stadiums.

Baseball, football and golf are currently three professional sports under way in South Korea during the coronavirus pandemic. They are all being played without fans in attendance due to lingering infection concerns.

During a media briefing Thursday, Yoon Tae-ho, a senior official at the Central Disaster Management Headquarters, said the government has been in talks with the sports ministry over letting fans back into baseball and football stadiums.

This file photo, from May 31, 2020, shows a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game between the Doosan Bears and the Lotte Giants being played without fans at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

"We'll need working-level discussions on the percentage of fans (in relation to stadium capacities) that should be allowed to attend," Yoon said.

In the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), clubs are reportedly nearing a breaking point without gate revenue since the start of the season on May 5. Some teams have said they may have to take out a bank loan to pay player salaries.

The Korea Professional Football League (K League) opened its season on May 8, and its clubs have also been struggling financially. The Korea Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) resumed its season in May and has so far hosted five tournaments without fans.

In recent days, there has been growing discontent among sports fans that it made no sense for water parks and beaches to open while sports stadiums remained closed, even though teams have all vowed to take stringent quarantine and distancing measures.

The government is expected to announce this weekend or sometime next week whether to adjust the intensity of social distancing. Yoon said the return of fans to pro sports games is part of the ongoing discussion.

The KBO had hoped to open the gates by early June, but such talks were shelved in late May amid a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in and around Seoul. League officials have said they and team representatives are taking a week-to-week approach to these discussions but insisted they will not act on their own without specific guidelines from the government.

In the KBO, stadiums will open either on a Tuesday or a Friday, for the start of a midweek three-game series or a weekend three-game series.

This file photo, from June 20, 2020, shows a K League 1 match between FC Seoul and Ulsan Hyundai FC being played without fans at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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