FC Seoul hit with record fine for placing sex dolls in the stands

Marcotti explains K-League's sex-doll mix-up (1:20)

Gab Marcotti speaks about how FC Seoul inadvertently substituted supporters in the stands with sex dolls. (1:20)

South Korea's FC Seoul have been fined a record 100 million Korean won ($82,000) for "damaging the prestige and integrity of the league" after using sex dolls instead of mannequins to fill empty seats during a K-League match.

The club placed around 20 dolls -- some of which were dressed in the team's colours, while others held placards supporting the side -- in the stands on Sunday to make up for the absence of fans due to coronavirus restrictions.

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However, viewers watching on television quickly pointed out that the dolls looked more like sex dolls than mannequins and that some of them were holding placards bearing the name of an adult toy manufacturer.

K-League regulations forbid inappropriate or sexual advertisements. While football authorities accepted that Seoul had not purposely ordered sex dolls, they ruled that given the doll's appearance and characteristics, there was ample time from installing them in the seats on Sunday lunchtime until the evening kickoff to realise a mistake had been made.

The club have already disciplined its staff involved in the mishap, declined to appeal the punishment and said they "humbly accepted" the ruling. In addition, Seoul have asked the police to investigate the suppliers of the mannequin for possible fraud.

There may be more to come for the 2016 champions. According to newspaper Kookmin Ilbo, Seoul Facilities Corporation, the body that operates Seoul World Cup Stadium, is investigating the incident. An official for the corporation was quoted as saying that the club is required to obtain advance permission for any advertising in the arena and could face further punishment, including expulsion from the 66,000-capacity stadium.

"That would be the most serious measure," the official said. "We will review the incident and then decide what to do."

Seoul, who beat Gwangju 1-0, could be docked a minimum of five points or face a fine of over £3,300, the Yonhap news agency said.

The club apologised on Monday, saying they had failed to check the consignment sent by the supplier and that they were not aware the dolls were adult products.

"We would like to apologise to the fans," the club said in a statement.

"We are very sorry about the supporting mannequins that were placed during the game on May 17. These mannequins may have been made to look and feel like real humans but they are not for sexual use -- as confirmed by the manufacturer from the beginning.

"Our intention was to do something lighthearted in these difficult times. We will think hard about what we need to do to ensure that something like this never happens again."

With South Korea enjoying unprecedented international attention after becoming the first major league to play competitive games since the spread of the coronavirus, the club has been heavily criticised on social media. Fans are accusing Seoul of damaging the prestige of Korean football -- also a punishable offence.