Photo/Illutration Masked supporters of the Yokohama Marinos react after the team's victory at Lemon Gas Stadium Hiratsuka in Kanagawa Prefecture on May 14. (Shinnosuke Ito)

The J.League is gradually turning up the volume in the stands at soccer games.

The professional football league said May 17 that it will start allowing spectators to “cheer loudly” for the first time since a ban on yelling and singing at stadiums was imposed in early 2020 to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

This will be the first attempt to permit such noise at sporting events in Japan since the pandemic began, but many restrictions will still apply.

Even in stadium sections where cheering is allowed, spectators will be required to wear masks and cannot eat or drink at the seats.

And the maximum number of people who can watch J.League games live remains at 50 percent of the stadium’s capacity in accordance with the government's basic policy for COVID-19.

The eased restrictions on cheering will begin at two matches: a Levain Cup game held on either June 4 or 11 at Kashima Soccer Stadium in Ibaraki Prefecture; and a J2 game at Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium on June 12.

The league said the maximum number of seats where fans can cheer will be 3,000 for each game. It plans to raise the cap to 7,000 in July and ease the cheering restrictions for additional games.

“When we allow spectators to cheer loudly, some of them may feel an increase in the risk of infection,” J.League Chairman Yoshikazu Nonomura said. “(But) the passion of fans through cheering is necessary in soccer games. We want to move forward step by step while confirming safety with scientific data.”