The J. League on Monday announced that its attendance caps would remain in place through Aug. 10, reflecting concerns over a rising number of new coronavirus infections in Tokyo and other major metropolitan areas.
Current restrictions on sporting events — which allow clubs to admit up to 5,000 fans or 50 percent of the stadium’s capacity, whichever is lower — were originally scheduled to be relaxed on Aug. 1. Fans have been allowed to attend games since July 10, with all required to wear masks, submit to temperature screenings at stadium entrances and refrain from cheering.
Clubs are currently not allowed to sell alcoholic beverages in the stadium or establish seating for visiting fans — rules that will now remain through Aug. 10, impacting an additional two rounds each of the league’s three divisions as well as one round of the Levain Cup’s group stage.
J. League Chairman Mitsuru Murai told an online news conference that the decision by the league’s executive committee was made in light of growing concern over the number of new infections in Tokyo.
“The government hasn't issued any clear directives, but I can feel a strong sense of urgency,” Murai said. “There’s a strong possibility that the number of new cases will continue to rise and the national mood is still cautious in regard to holding big events.”
Tokyo reported 168 new cases on Monday, following 188 on Sunday and nearly 300 in each of the prior three days.
Murai noted that the clubs were united in extending attendance limits, even though some teams are located in regions with significantly lower infection rates.
"Today I spoke to the Tokyo clubs, clubs in the surrounding prefectures, Osaka's two clubs, Kansai's clubs and then clubs in areas that haven't been significantly affected in separate groups," Murai said. "Each region and each stadium has different conditions, and we want to respect the circumstances of individual clubs as much as possible.
"The situation is unpredictable and we reached consensus as a league to stick with the current limits in the absence of any instructions from the government."
The government’s medical experts will hold their next briefing on Wednesday, while the joint NPB-J. League coronavirus task force will next meet on Monday, July 27. Murai said that the league will determine its plans for Aug. 11 and onward following that meeting, including whether to hold matches, in two-week increments.
“The players need a certain amount of time to maintain their conditioning, and there’s all sorts of considerations to be made in terms of safely carrying out games as well as ticketing concerns,” said Murai.