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Kicks and kinks don’t mix, which a South Korean soccer team learned the hard way after being hit with a record fine. And that’s not even the worst of it. The FC Seoul team is at risk of being evicted from its stadium.

South Korea has handled the coronavirus aggressively

The Korean soccer league, known by many fans as the K-League, opened its 2020 season last week but faces the same challenges that sports organizations all over the world have encountered since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the winter.

The COVID-19 virus struck in Asia before reaching other parts of the globe, and South Korea had more confirmed cases by late February than any country besides China. Government officials traced the source of a major outbreak back to a church, ordered quarantining for those who worshipped there, and began extensive testing in the broad community.

The government even used cellphone data to track down people who had been in personal contact with infected individuals, leading to more precautionary self-isolation. The number of new daily cases fell by nearly 90% within a month, and the country has had multiple days this month with no new cases.

South Korea is not yet back to normal, but the country did hold an election with in-person voting last month and has resumed professional sports schedules, including a soccer season that had been put on hold in February.

An important restriction trips up the FC Seoul team

The resumption of professional baseball and soccer in South Korea has not come without conditions, some of which are also under consideration in the United States as the NBA, NHL, MLB, and MLS wrestle with moving forward.

One of the big restrictions in Korea is that fans are not allowed to attend contests. Even with social distancing, large crowds are a concern for health officials there, as is also the case stateside.

And that’s where things went off the tracks for FC Seoul, which won the K-League championship in 2016. In an effort to create a little bit of atmosphere during games, teams received league approvals to place mannequins and cardboard cutouts of people in stadiums to break up huge swathes of green, blue or red seats.

Something apparently got lost in the translation when it came time for FC Seoul to set up the 66,000-seat Seoul World Cup Stadium for Sunday’s game. Rather than using mannequins, the club filled some seats with approximately 20 inflatable sex dolls during the 1-0 victory over Gwangju FC, The Guardian reported.

The dolls were dressed in team jerseys or T-shirts, but they didn’t go unnoticed by television viewers or by K-League officials.

The K-League comes down hard on FC Seoul

South Korea’s K-League has rules against inappropriate or sexual advertisements. So, while the league accepted the FC Seoul explanation that the team hadn’t intentionally ordered sex dolls, it came down hard on the club.

The league fined FC Seoul 100 million won – approximately $81,000. The club announced that it would not appeal the league’s record punishment.

That may not be the end of the soccer team’s troubles, however. Some of the dolls were holding signs promoting a company that sells sex toys. The agency that runs the stadium says that it has exclusive rights to advertising and that the team’s violation may be grounds for voiding its lease.


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