Fans set to return to Eredivisie stadia

Dutch football fans will return to Eredivisie stadia at the end of the month, as part of the Netherlands’ latest test events for the reopening of the sports and entertainment sector during COVID-19.

Professional football has been included on the government’s list of events and locations that will conduct pilot events utilising rapid COVID-19 tests. As a result, home fans will be allowed to attend in limited numbers during round 30 of the Eredivisie season on April 23-25, as well as round 36 of the second-tier Eerste Divisie on April 30.

The pilot events are designed to safely and responsibly reopen social activities, with attendees required to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours before the event in question. The government had drawn up a list of possible test events, which were presented to local authorities to determine whether they would allow them to take place.

The final list has now been presented, split into ‘recreational sport’, ‘sports and youth activities’ and ‘top sports competitions’. Under the latter category, the first test events will be for the KNVB Cup final between Ajax and Vitesse on April 18. While no fans will be permitted at the game itself at De Kuip stadium in Rotterdam, supporters will be allowed to attend screenings at the homes of the two clubs – up to 3,000 at Vitesse’s Gelredome and up to 5,000 at Ajax’s Johan Cruijff ArenA.

For the Eredivisie, capacity limits will vary across the nine games in round 30. While up to 1,200 Emmen fans will be allowed to attend De Oude Meerdijk for its game against Heracles, up to 6,500 will be permitted at De Kuip (pictured) for Feyenoord v Vitesse and up to 7,500 at Johan Cruijff ArenA for Ajax v AZ.

For the following weekend’s round of Eerste Divisie games, capacities will range from 380 for Telstar v Jong PSV up to 1,950 for Roda JC v Jong AZ. Commenting on the announcement, Eric Gudde, professional football director for the Dutch Football Association (KNVB), said: “We are in close contact with the cabinet about the return of the public to the stadiums and all the opportunities and possibilities that can speed up this process. 

“After the Fieldlab experiments in three matches, this is a very nice, new step. For the first time we will have spectators in the stands at all matches during a round of play. The new legal framework for rapid testing should become active in May. With some exciting rounds to go, it is realistic that this season will end as we started it: with fans in the stadiums cheering the players on.”

The latest news comes after the KNVB last month used a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier for the latest fan attendance trial in the domestic game. The Netherlands’ game against Latvia was watched by 5,000 fans at Johan Cruijff ArenA in Amsterdam. The match represented the largest test event to date held under the Fieldlab Events banner.

In January, Eerste Divisie clubs NEC Nijmegen and Almere City were chosen to host test events that saw fans return to Dutch football games for the first time since the end of September. The two second-tier games were part of eight events run under the banner of ‘Back to Live!’ The venture was organised by Fieldlab Events, a government-backed initiative which represents the events sector during COVID-19.

Fieldlab Events ran the two football test events in association with the KNVB, with 1,500 fans present at NEC’s Stadion de Goffert on February 21 for a league match against De Graafschap. Almere City’s test match, also with 1,500 fans present, was a league game against Cambuur on February 28 at Yanmar Stadion.

At the time, the KNVB said findings generated by the latest trial would be important with regards potentially allowing fans to return for the conclusion of the 2020-21 domestic season, as well as Johan Cruijff ArenA’s staging of games at the rescheduled UEFA Euro 2020.

Image: Валерий Дед/CC BY 3.0/Edited for size