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Ajax and Vitesse withdraw from Cup final test events

Dutch Cup finalists Ajax and Vitesse have both pulled out of test events that would have seen thousands of fans able to watch this weekend’s game on big screens at the clubs’ stadiums.

Vitesse ended their plans to host 3,000 spectators at GelreDome, citing the complexity and lack of interest, days after Ajax made the same decision. The KNVB Cup final will be played behind closed doors at Feyenoord’s De Kuip arena in Rotterdam on Sunday.

The broadcasts at GelreDome and Ajax’s Johan Cruijff ArenA – which was to welcome 5,000 fans – were the first of the Dutch government’s list of events and locations scheduled to conduct pilot events utilising rapid COVID-19 tests over the coming weeks.

Vitesse general director Pascal van Wijk said: “It has become apparent in recent days that the enthusiasm among our supporters to watch the match on large screens in GelreDome is limited.

“In addition, in recent days we were confronted with additional restrictions – including the limited test capacity on Saturday in Arnhem, which meant that our supporters had to travel many kilometres for a test and not be allowed to serve alcoholic drinks after 8pm – and a number of significant unforeseen cost items.

“That is why we have concluded that, given the various impeding factors, it is impossible to organise an event in GelreDome that matches what we have in mind. The high costs in relation to the limited interest also leave us no choice, at a time when we have to use our resources sparingly.”

Ajax called off their own screening at the end of last week with a club spokesperson describing the event as “too complex and too short a day to organise it now”.

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.

Speaking last week, 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.”

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.

Image: Arnhemcity12 / file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license / Cropped for size