Dutch Eredivisie football club NEC Nijmegen has announced that it will play its next two home league matches behind closed doors at the Goffertstadion after failing to find an alternative temporary stadium following an incident at the venue earlier this month.
The Goffertstadion was closed to fans until further notice after a stand partially collapsed at the venue on October 17. Following NEC’s 1-0 home defeat against Vitesse Arnhem, a small section of the stand caved in as the away fans celebrated their team’s victory.
No injuries were caused by the incident, which resulted in around 35 fans dropping a few feet as the stand buckled while they celebrated. NEC subsequently announced that the 12,500-seat stadium would close until further notice following discussions between the club, the Nijmegen Region Environment Agency (ODRN) and the Municipality of Nijmegen.
The main building of the stadium will remain accessible but the stands will be closed while an investigation is carried out. The municipality has hired an external agency, Royal HaskoningDHV, to investigate the matter.
Initial results of this probe are expected in mid-November, at which point a determination is expected to be made as to the extent to which fans can potentially return to the stadium. In the meantime, NEC has been seeking a temporary destination for its home games, but has admitted defeat and has instead announced that Eredivisie games against FC Groningen (October 31) and SC Heerenveen (November 6) will be played behind closed doors at Goffertstadion.
Wilco van Schaik, general manager of NEC, told Dutch broadcaster NOS: “Further research and evaluation has shown that, if no one is in the stands, there is no danger to players and staff. We do not want to take any risks.”
NEC had been seeking options whereby its fans would have been able to travel to support their team at an alternative venue. However, the Vitesse game was marred by fan violence, which Van Schaik admits may have deterred potential partners.
He said: “I have had concrete talks with eight locations. I have had quotations made and talks with local authorities. We have even been working on stadiums in Germany.”
On the fan violence at the Vitesse game, he added: “Our name has been hit by this incident. This is not fair perhaps, given our great supporters in recent years, but it’s very understandable.”
Despite being forced behind closed doors, Van Schaik said NEC will work with supporters’ groups and sponsors in the coming days on ventures such as fan screenings to ensure engagement remains. “We are still working on this puzzle,” he added.
Image: Justinrtw5/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size