More than 17,000 supporters will attend Japan’s university rugby championship final on Monday in Tokyo despite new restrictions limiting crowds at major sporting events to 5,000 or 50 per cent of capacity.

The Japanese Rugby Football Union confirmed today (Friday) that the attendance figure will remain the same as the government has made an exception for events to which tickets were already sold.

Japan declared a state of emergency for the Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures yesterday as COVID-19 cases continue to surge. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the move, which will be effective from today to February 7, as Tokyo confirmed 2,447 new coronavirus cases in a day.

Monday’s university rugby final, which is scheduled to be held at the National Stadium built for the postponed Tokyo Olympics, will welcome more than 17,000 fans to the 68,000-capacity venue.

More than 24,000 spectators watched the final of J.League football’s Levain Cup at the same stadium earlier this week.

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

JRFU chairman Kensuke Iwabuchi said, according to Reuters: “We want to move ahead without cancelling any of these tournaments.The situation changes day by day, hour by hour so we have to be flexible.”

Iwabuchi added that ticket holders who wanted a refund can seek one, but stated: “We will still hold the final based on what the government has said. We have already sold the tickets and the government has agreed that matches with tickets already sold can go ahead.”

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the complete cancellation of last year’s Top League campaign, as well as the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and several other sporting events across the country.

The state of emergency has also forced cinemas, museums and other events to reduce attendance.

Image: 江戸村のとくぞう/ CC BY-SA 4.0 / Edited for size