Nippon Professional Baseball will not host interleague contests this season with the start of the campaign still delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, the circuit announced in an online news conference on Friday.

The league came to the conclusion after a teleconference with representatives of all 12 clubs earlier in the day.

“As you know the (national) government has declared a state of emergency for the entire country, not only five, six cities (in which the declaration was originally made). Considering the physical conditions of the players and other factors, we have to abandon the idea of starting our season in May,” NPB Commissioner Atsushi Saito said. “And taking the season schedule through the Japan Series into account, we reached a conclusion to not host interleague games this year.”

It will be the first time that NPB will not play cross-league games since the format began in 2005. Each team in the Central and Pacific Leagues was to play 18 interleague games, meaning that they will play no more than 125 games this year.

Saito described it as a “serious decision” for NPB to make, adding that while interleague play was the focus of Friday’s meaning, the Climax Series playoffs and All-Star series could also face cancellation depending on how the coronavirus situation evolves going forward.

When NPB and the J. League formed a joint task force to combat the effects of the outbreak in March, Saito insisted that he hoped for each team to play a full 143-game schedule. With that no longer on the cards this year, Saito declined to suggest a new target during the media briefing.

“Obviously, we want to play as many games as we can,” said the 80-year-old, who assumed the post in 2017. “But it will all be dependent on the situation.”

NPB and the J. League are scheduled to be briefed by its own panel of medical experts on Thursday, after which NPB officials expect to be able to announce a rough idea of when the season can begin.

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