Game on! Japan to let 5,000 fans attend baseball, football

Baseball is the most popular sport in Japan, winners of last year's WBSC Premier 12

Up to 5,000 fans will be able to attend Japanese football and baseball games from July 10, officials said Monday as the sports inch towards normality after coronavirus suspensions.

The heads of Nippon Professional Baseball and football's J-League announced the move at a joint press appearance after consultations with infection experts.

"We must fully consider the current situation... but we have received word from government officials that we can declare that we will let spectators in from the 10th of next month," baseball commissioner Atsushi Saito told a press briefing.

J-League chief Mitsuru Murai said the same date would apply for football matches.

Stadiums will admit only 5,000 spectators or 50 percent of their capacity, whichever number is smaller. Fans are expected to be asked to wear masks, wash their hands frequently and avoid shouting, according to reports.

Professional baseball, Japan's most popular sport, began its season last Friday behind closed doors after a three-month delay as the coronavirus pandemic swept around the world.

The top tier of Japan's J-League football will return on July 4, initially in front of empty stadiums.

While Japan has experienced a comparatively small coronavirus outbreak, the pandemic has forced a one-year delay of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with some experts concerned that even that postponement may not be enough time for the event to be held safely.

Japan's government last month lifted a national state of emergency over the virus, saying major events such as sports games could only gradually allow fans to return to stadiums.

Baseball is the most popular sport in Japan, winners of last year's WBSC Premier 12