NPB to admit more fans as Japan relaxes spectator limit

The opening ceremony of the Japanese professional baseball match between Seibu and Nippon Ham (Photo by STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP via Getty Images)

Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league will admit increased numbers of fans to its games from this weekend, following the Japanese government’s relaxation of Covid-19 spectator limits.

The government is this week lifting a 5,000 limit on attendances and allowing sports organisers to operate venues at half-capacity.

The NPB will allow each of its clubs to decide how many fans they admit to their home games, due to different capacities and seating arrangements in their stadiums.

NPB teams are to work with local governments, healthcare providers and public transport operators to minimise the Covid-19 transmission risk around games.

Japan Times reported that NPB commissioner Atsushi Saito said, “With less than half the season left, we would like as many fans as possible to enjoy our games.

“We will make even more of an effort to protect our players, staff and those who are coming to the stadiums, including our fans, from the coronavirus…Hopefully, what we are doing will contribute to the staging of next year’s Olympics and Paralympics while also providing a roadmap for the organisers of other sports.”

The NPB and football’s J.League were allowed to admit up to 5,000 fans on July 10, having previously played games behind closed doors. The league’s last week appealed to the government to relax the restriction.

Attendance limits in other countries are slowly being eased too. Germany’s federal states have agreed to allow some fans to enter Bundesliga football matches for the first time since the pandemic started when the league restarts this weekend. The states will conduct a six-week trial during which stadiums can be opened up to 20 per cent of full capacity. The sale of alcohol within the stadiums will be prohibited.

Clubs in the English Football League will admit up to 1,000 fans to matches from this weekend under a similar pilot scheme.