The Japan High School Baseball Federation said Wednesday it is preparing to hold the National High School Baseball Invitational tournament behind closed doors due to the spread of the new coronavirus, while also mulling possible cancellation of the tournament.
The federation said it will decide next Wednesday whether to hold the annual tournament, which is slated to begin March 19 at famed Koshien Stadium in Hyogo Prefecture.
The federation's board of directors agreed in a meeting last month to hold the tournament as planned, but a request from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to cancel or postpone large sporting events as well as close schools nationwide from Monday prompted the board to reconsider.
Should the tournament go ahead as planned, it will be the first time either the annual invitational or the high school baseball championship — commonly known as Spring and Summer Koshien — will be held without spectators. It will also be without the customary opening ceremony.
Thirty-two schools from across the country, including reigning national champion Riseisha High School, are scheduled to take part in the 92nd edition of the tournament.
The invitational tournament was suspended from 1942-1946 due to World War II, but neither the spring or summer tournament have ever been outright canceled.
In 2010, games during the Miyazaki Prefecture summer tournament were played without fans to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease.
Japanese sports bodies have issued scores of self-imposed restraints over the pneumonia-causing virus. Last week, Nippon Professional Baseball made the unprecedented decision to hold the rest of its preseason games behind closed doors.
Pro soccer and top-tier rugby matches have been postponed since the final weekend of February, while the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, opening this weekend in Osaka, will be held without spectators for the first time in the sport's history.