SEOUL, April 27 (Korea Bizwire) — The South Korean baseball league, preparing for a new ‘crowdless’ season this year, is also coming up with plans for a phase-by-phase entry of fans aligned with the evolution of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) secretariat and heads of the 10 teams held a board meeting on April 21, deciding to open the new season on May 5, with games scheduled to be played without fans for safety.
Officials also decided to monitor the coronavirus situation and allow a phase-by-phase entry of fans if possible.
Marketing departments from each baseball team, in turn, discussed methods for a gradual entry of fans based on their research on current social mood and the status of the coronavirus crisis, a source said Sunday.
Upon mutual understanding that playing games without spectators would hurt the baseball industry in the long run, baseball authorities decided to allow fans to fill up a certain portion of the stadium when the coronavirus outbreak seems to be completely under control, and gradually increase the capacity if circumstances allow.
The 10 professional baseball teams vowed to adhere to the strict principle of complete disinfection of the stadiums, requiring fans to wear protective masks, and spacing out fans lining up at the entrance to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The KBO secretariat and the baseball teams also consulted with health specialists on the matter of fan entry.
“Baseball, unlike other winter sports played indoors, is an outdoor sport that involves seats that are separated by level. Considering that fans face towards the baseball diamond most of the time, the spread of the coronavirus through droplets is unlikely,” said Jeon Byeong-yul, former head of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and member of the KBO COVID-19 Task Force.
Baseball teams rely heavily on entrance fees and profits raised at concessions inside the stadium.
The operating revenues of a KBO baseball team supported by its parent company consists of entrance fees (30 percent), broadcasting commissions (30 percent), and subsidies from parent company and marketing profits (40 percent).
If games continue to be played without fans, baseball teams, concession owners at the stadium, small businesses around the stadium, and companies that create baseball goods or run cheerleading squads will face major losses.
The baseball industry is also voicing concerns that the government’s social distancing policy is incompatible with the current state of affairs.
“If the government’s 1-meter social distancing policy is implemented at baseball stadiums, we would only be able to fill up 10 percent of the stadium capacity,” an expert source said.
“A reconsideration is necessary for the survival of the baseball industry.”
M. H. Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)