17,000 may attend Japan's university final despite COVID-19 limits - JRFU

Jack Tarrant
·2-min read

By Jack Tarrant

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's university rugby championship final will go ahead in Tokyo on Monday with 17,000 supporters, despite new restrictions limiting crowds at major sporting events to 5,000 or 50% capacity, the Japanese Rugby Football Union said on Friday.

The Japanese capital and three neighbouring prefectures are under a state of emergency, declared Thursday in response to a surge in novel coronavirus infections, with large venues having already been instructed to limit attendance.

However, the government has made an exception for events to which tickets were already sold.

Japan's top domestic rugby competition, Top League, due to start on Jan. 16, will also go ahead with more than 5,000 fans in stadia as tickets for those matches have also already been sold.

More than 17,000 tickets have been bought for Monday's university final, to be held at the National Stadium built for the postponed Tokyo Olympics.

Over 24,000 spectators watched the final of J.League soccer's Levain Cup at the same stadium earlier this week.

"We want to move ahead without cancelling any of these tournaments," JRFU chairman Kensuke Iwabuchi told reporters on Friday.

"The situation changes day by day, hour by hour so we have to be flexible."

"We will still hold the final based on what the government has said," stressed Iwabuchi, who added that ticket holders who wanted a refund can seek one.

"We have already sold the tickets and the government has agreed that matches with tickets already sold can go ahead."

The coronavirus pandemic played havoc with sporting schedules throughout 2020 and forced the complete cancellation of last year's Top League campaign.

Japan, though less seriously hit by the pandemic than many places, has been unable to rein in the virus to the extent some countries in the region have, with daily infections topping 7,000 for the first time on Thursday.

(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; editing by Richard Pullin)