By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Oct. 14 (Yonhap) — Sports stadiums across South Korea may open their gates even wider for their fans next month.
The sports ministry announced Wednesday it will consider increasing the cap placed on the size of crowds at sports games from the current 30 percent to up to 50 percent, starting in November.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced sports leagues in the country to play most of the year without fans. The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) and the K League in football enjoyed brief periods in the summer when they had small crowds, before a spike in COVID-19 cases took them back to square one.
Then with social distancing restrictions eased this week, KBO clubs started accepting fans again Tuesday, with the K League set to follow with its weekend matches. Basketball and volleyball leagues are soon expected to join them later this month.
The ministry said it will be in talks with relevant stakeholders before making the decision on raising the number. It plans to meet with representatives from all pro leagues to discuss their quarantine measures.
KBO and K League clubs will be staying under the 30 percent cap for the time being, in order to ensure safe distance among fans.
Both leagues have implemented safety and health protocols for spectators, who must go through temperature checks and must keep masks on for the duration of games. They’re banned from consuming any food in their seats, and vocal cheering is also prohibited.
Competing in front of fans should give athletes on the field an emotional lift, and selling additional tickets will help teams’ bottom lines. With almost no gate receipts this year, baseball and football clubs have both experienced financial issues.