FC Seoul deny using sex dolls as 'fans'

Cheering mannequins are installed at FC Seoul's match against Gwangju FC

A South Korean professional soccer club has apologised after being accused of putting sex dolls in empty seats during a match in Seoul on Sunday.

FC Seoul have expressed "sincere remorse" over the controversy, but insisted they used mannequins - not sex dolls - to mimic a home crowd during the 1-0 win over Gwangju FC at the Seoul World Cup stadium.

Following a long delay because of the coronavirus, the country's top-flight K-League returned to action on May 8 without spectators, days after professional baseball began under similar conditions. The leagues plan to ban fans until the risks of infections are meaningfully lowered.

With players competing in front of rows of empty seats, some soccer and baseball teams have been trying to create a festive and humorous atmosphere that involves filling stands with huge team banners, pictures of mask-wearing fans, or even vegetables.

FC Seoul said in a statement they were attempting to add "an element of fun" with the mannequins. The team said it was repeatedly reassured by Dalkom, the company that produced the mannequins, they weren't sexual products.

But when providing its products for the stadium, Dalkom reused some of the mannequins it previously supplied to another company, which manages female video jockeys, after which some of the sex dolls were reportedly modelled, FC Seoul said.

FC Seoul said they didn't directly address criticism of why it chose to work with Dalkom, which does manufacture sex dolls, according to the company's website, or why nearly all the mannequins at the stadium were female in design.