Dutch football opposes new three-week stadium lockdown

Dutch football authorities have expressed their “great dismay” at a reintroduction of a ban on spectators in stadiums as part of a three-week Covid-19 lockdown.

The KNVB and the country’s top two divisions expressed their opposition to Caretaker Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s announcement of a three-week lockdown on Friday in response to rising cases of Covid-19.

As well as professional sports matches being played in empty stadiums, there are fresh restrictions on the opening times of bars, restaurants and supermarkets which will all have to be closed by 8pm.

The Netherlands’ crunch FIFA World Cup qualifier against Norway on Tuesday in Rotterdam’s 51,000-capacity De Kuip stadium – when the home side can confirm their place at Qatar 2022 – will now be played without fans present.

A statement released by Marianne van Leeuwen of the KNVB, Jan de Jong of Eredivisie CV, and Marc Boele of Kitchen Champion Division outlined their disagreement with the new restrictions.

“It is with great dismay that we have taken note of the possible new corona measures. It is more than frustrating to see that the cabinet is apparently not looking at the sources of infection,” they wrote.

“These did not take place in the stadiums, as has been demonstrated several times, and yet the public is the first to draw a line in professional football. In any case, this is now being discussed. This resembles policy poverty, people in ‘The Hague’ no longer know what to do.”

The leaders said that venues have each invested tens of thousands of euros to ensure safety. They added that official data shows that not a single professional football match has led to major corona infections.

They suggested fans gathering in homes to watch games on television rather in stadiums creates a greater risk of the virus spreading.

They wrote: “We follow the current developments regarding the coronavirus, but the measures that have just been announced that affect professional football have no positive effect because there are already no sources of infection in the stadiums. This is known in advance, so why ban it publicly?

“Playing in front of an audience forms the basis of professional football and football fans have been unable to attend any matches or hardly at all for a year and a half. They are once again the victims of a failed government policy. Football is not the problem but now seems to be punished again.”

Dutch stadiums opened to full capacities in little more than six weeks ago for the first time since the initial outbreak of Covid-19 in March 2020. Stadiums reopened in full on September 25, having started the 2021-22 season at 67% capacity.

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