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Editorial: Resumption of pro sports in Japan can offer new ways of enjoying them

Various professional sports, which have been on hold due to the novel coronavirus, will soon resume.

    Pro baseball will begin on June 19, some three months after it usually starts. J-League soccer, which had been halted since late February, is also set to announce when it will resume its season.

    We hope that the world of baseball, which will start off without any spectators, will continue to take steps to prevent players and staff from becoming infected with the novel coronavirus.

    At stadiums, it will be necessary to enforce anti-virus countermeasures such as securing space between players sitting on the bench, the wearing of face masks by players and a rule against high-fives. Preventative measures when traveling by shinkansen bullet train and by air, as well as when staying at accommodations and eating on away games will be important.

    To restart the soccer season in Germany, players and others involved underwent polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. In Japan, too, steps should be taken to determine if there are any infected people before resuming sports seasons. It must also be decided beforehand what steps will be taken and whether the leagues will continue to go forward with their season if someone does become infected with the virus.

    At first, there were arguments against having a baseball season without spectators, because not only would there be a major loss in ticket sales, which comprise the bulk of baseball teams' income, but also because the majority of income from team paraphernalia would be lost if fans did not attend games.

    While professional baseball had seen a drop in its television viewership in recent years, tickets to the games were so popular they were difficult to obtain. An increasing number of fans want to see the games in real life.

    In Taiwan and South Korea, where professional baseball leagues have already begun their seasons, internet streaming and television broadcasting to international audiences are said to be popular. Life-sized panels printed with fans and banners are placed in the stands, and cheerleaders cheer the players on. It's a fun gimmick.

    Fans are eagerly waiting for the opportunity to go watch sports live. If we use the interactivity of the internet, it should be possible to get the sense that one is really in the stands even without actually being there. Businesses that offer new ways of enjoying sports will become possible.

    When to let fans into stadiums will have to be a very careful decision. The government has presented a rough guide on how events should be opened up gradually to increasingly more people. Filling the stands will large numbers of people can wait until a safe environment can be guaranteed.

    Players have continued to practice as much as they could under various restrictions. In a time when a sense of stagnation is overwhelming, we look forward to sports to provide inspiration and excitement to the world.

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