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Empty stadiums pushing KBO clubs to financial breaking point

Hanwha Eagles players wear masks before the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) League opening game (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

South Korean baseball was among the first sport to resume during the Covid-19 pandemic but without expected gate revenue some clubs are now facing financial difficulties.

Baseball fans in South Korea are dissatisfied that while beaches and water parks are now open to the public, baseball stadiums remain off-limits to them.

Following the resumption of the league on May 5, the plan was for fans to gradually be permitted back in to games in the coming months. However a recent rise in new Covid-19 cases in Seoul and surrounding regions means allowing supporters back this month is now unworkable.

The resurgence of the virus has forced the KBO and its clubs to scrap plans to sell tickets. According to a Yonhap report teams may soon have to take severe action to address the financial impact if fans are not allowed in by July.

To date players have not been asked to take any salary reductions but without the expected gate revenue that will need to change.

Major South Korean conglomerates such as Samsung, LG, SK and Lotte own baseball clubs and provide grants for their teams, but the financial backing could be cut back this year due to the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the firms.

“We’ve been paying our players and employees in full. But if we keep playing without fans in July, a lot of teams will run into extremely serious trouble.” “They may have to take out a loan to pay salaries,” a club official told Yonhap.

“Last year, we made about $147,925 (€206,288) from gates per home game on average, and obviously we’ve made zero this year,” the official said.