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Pro football league to reopen stadium gates Friday

The South Korean pro football league will reopen the gates to its stadiums later this week, following the recent easing of social distancing restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, the Korea Professional Football League announced Monday.

According to the K League, starting with the K League 1 match between Gangwon FC and Incheon United on Friday, supporters will be readmitted to stadiums.

The government announced Sunday it would soften social distancing rules and allow pro sports leagues to bring fans back to stadium seats.

Gangwon will host the match at Gangneung Stadium in Gangneung, 230 kilometers east of Seoul, at 7 p.m. Friday.

There are two more matches Saturday and three Sunday. The K League 1 season was cut from 38 matches to 27 matches, as its start was pushed back by over two months due to the virus outbreak. It will finish Nov. 1.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) was the first of the major sports leagues in the country to decide on a reopening schedule, with fans set to start being admitted Tuesday. The K League then followed suit, while leagues in basketball and volleyball are in talks with their clubs to determine their own timetables.

Though the government said teams would be allowed to have crowds of up to 30 percent of seating capacity, the K League teams will stick to a 25 percent cap to ensure sufficient distancing between fans and a safe viewing experience.

The K League enjoyed a brief window from late July to mid-August, in which fans were taking in matches in person. A sudden uptick in COVID-19 cases prompted the government to tighten social distancing rules and to force sports teams to shut their stadium gates.

The same set of protocols for spectators from the summer will remain in place this time. All fans entering K League stadiums must wear masks and undergo temperature checks. They also have to fill out a digital entry log with a QR code.

Bringing in any food or beverages will be prohibited. Fans won't be allowed to eat any food or drink anything other than water or soft drinks from their seats.

Masks must be kept on during matches, and vocal cheering will be banned. (Yonhap)