Sporting events around the globe have been halted because of coronavirus, but South Korea’s K League is one competition that is pushing ahead with matches without spectators.

But FC Seoul sparked controversy on Sunday during its home match against Gwangju in South Korea’s top football championship, with the club being accused of using sex dolls to fill its stands.

The club apologized and the K League has handed down a 100 million KRW ($81,300) fine over the incident, according to a spokesperson for the team.

FC Seoul told CNN on Thursday it would “humbly accept” the decision.

The K League did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Fans criticized the club online and said it had blown the chance to show off the K League to an international audience.

“FC Seoul messed it up making the league look salacious,” wrote one. “It’s really ugly and dirty.”

However others said the whole incident had been blown out of proportion.

“Those who don’t even watch football normally are turning this into a thing,” wrote another fan. “Honestly, people who don’t really care about this just think that they are mannequins and don’t pay any attention.”

While fan opinion is divided as to whether the club did anything wrong, the prevailing opinion seems to be that management handled things poorly.

The dolls were in the stands for FC Seoul’s second game of the delayed K League season at the weekend, surprising those who tuned in to watch the game.

Some of the figures were holding signs for a company that makes sex dolls, and fans pointed out that they looked like adult dolls rather than mannequins.

Responding to criticism, the club issued an apology on Instagram and Facebook on Sunday.

“Regarding the cheer mannequins that were installed during the game on the 17th, we sincerely apologize for causing deep concern to the fans,” the statement said.

FC Seoul apologized to fans over the dolls.

FC Seoul explained that although the dolls were made to look like real people, rather than conventional mannequins, it had checked they were “not at all related to adult products” before agreeing to install them, and had been told they would be mannequins of the kind commonly used to model clothes.

Staff “went through the confirmation process that they were not adult products several times,” said the statement, and didn’t notice that an ad for adult products was visible on the day of the game.

“This is our fault without excuse,” said the club. “Regardless of the reason, we apologize again for causing great concern to the fans who love and cheer for FC Seoul.”

Premier League clubs vote in favor of returning to training as 'Project Restart' edges closer

The South Korean K League is one of just a handful of football leagues currently playing matches after the world game was largely shut down by the pandemic.

Germany’s Bundesliga has also restarted, with teams playing in empty stadiums.

Other leagues are grappling with the question of restarting competitions that were postponed.

Some football authorities, including those in France, have decided to cancel the 2019/2020 season.

However Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A are still considering their options, while on Monday England’s Premier League edged closer to restarting as its clubs voted in favor of resuming training.

CNN’s Sophie Jeong contributed to this story.





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