JULY 1: The return of live fans will have to wait at least a bit longer, per Yoo (via Twitter). Governmental approval still hasn’t been issued, though it still seems likely to come before long — except, perhaps, in the Kia Tigers’ home city of Gwangju, where there has been an uptick in coronavirus cases. (It’s still a much smaller number than most U.S. cities are dealing with.)
JULY 30: The Korea Baseball Organization has thus far successfully followed Taiwan’s top league in launching a 2020 season. Now, the KBO hopes to join the CPBL in re-introducing live attendance.
Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News reports (Twitter link; full story) that fans could be in the seats within days. The plan is to open at approximately thirty percent capacity, with careful precautions in place to limit the potential for coronavirus transmission.
All of the planning is obviously occurring in concert with Korean authorities, who’ll need to sign off on the final plan. The league is working up a variety of protocols, according to Yoo.
While it may seem like a fairly rapid development to go from no fans to nearly one-third attendance, it seems the KBO has been hard at work all this time preparing for a re-launch. Among the measures being taken:
- Tickets must be purchased online in advance.
- Utilization of QR codes at entry to limit contact and enable tracing if transmission is suspected.
- Modified entrance and spaced seating protocols.
It’s obviously quite important to understand that the KBO (like the CPBL) is operating in a nation that has far lower current COVID-19 prevalence than does the United States. Korea’s top league has already provided a model for relaunching play, but its strict standards for maintaining its schedule — the league says it will shut down for at least three weeks if any member of a team tests positive — would almost certainly be unworkable for MLB. If and when it comes to considering the reintroduction of fans on this side of the Pacific, it’ll be important to learn from the KBO while also recognizing the very different public health situation.