Football clubs across the Dutch football pyramid are set to reopen their gates to fans in defiance of government rules. Clubs from the Eredivisie and the Keuken Kampioen Divisie have stated that they “can no longer play without an audience”, according to nltimes.com
Eredivisie Clubs to Allow Spectators in Protest of Coronavirus Restrictions
Why Are Spectators Banned From Sporting Events?
The Netherlands went into lockdown on 14th December 2021. This meant that every non-essential shop or establishment had to close. This lockdown finished on January 14th, with most stores being allowed to reopen until 5 pm.
Some sectors however are still under heavy restrictions. This includes the cultural and entertainment industry, meaning that restaurants, bars, nightclubs, museums, libraries, sports stadiums, exhibitions, etc. are still not allowed to reopen.
Dutch clubs have spent a large part of the pandemic playing without fans, just like the majority of sports worldwide. However, no audiences have been allowed in stadiums since early November 2021. The matter was made worse for Dutch fans seeing their neighbours Belgium, France, England, Spain, and Italy all continuing with spectators.
The Dutch Football Association (KNVB) previously released a statement criticizing the government’s restrictions on football stadiums. They stated: “It is more than frustrating to see that the cabinet is apparently not looking at the sources of infection. 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.”
Sporting events were previously used as testing events to reopen society effectively and safely. The Dutch FA further expressed their frustration claiming they have ” invested tens of thousands of euros per location to make everything corona-proof for the spectators”.
“Hundreds of matches have been played with the public since the first lockdown and not a single match has led to major corona infections.”
How will Dutch Clubs Protest The Restrictions?
Firstly, it’s important to understand that the culture sector is not the first to protest the measures. Restaurants and bars opened all over the country last weekend to demonstrate against them. They, just like the cultural sector, believe that their establishments can be opened safely following basic coronavirus measures.
The cultural sector, which includes sporting events, is considering legal actions against the government, according to sources.
According to NLTimes.com, Eredivisie clubs will commit to the protest depending on government updates on January 25th. Second division teams from the Keuken Kampioen Divisie claim they might start accepting supporters this week.
A spokesperson of one of the sides, VVV Venlo, stated: “The intention is to play against FC Dordrecht with an audience”.
ADO Den Haag, one of the Netherlands’ most historic clubs, plans to open its doors to supporters in their fixture against De Graafschap on January 30th. “We still assume that it will be allowed again by then. But if the Cabinet sticks to the ban on spectators, we want to open the doors demonstratively. Compare it with the catering industry and shops in Valkenburg last week.”
Football clubs in the Netherlands rely heavily on supporters as the football culture in the country is one of the best in the world. Dutch clubs do not have the same financial power as clubs in France, Germany, Italy or Spain. Their TV deals are much smaller than other leagues, meaning gate receipts acts as a strong source of income. The lack of supporters over the last 20 months has caused extreme financial difficulties in teams around the country.
Dutch sides have resorted to other alternatives to attract attention. In September 2021, second division team Telstar announced that Louis Van Gaal would manage the team for one game. Van Gaal was (and currently is) the manager of the Netherlands national team. The initiative was to raise funds for charity and the clubs. For each ticket sold for their game against Jong AZ Alkmaar,€2.50 would be donated to the ‘Spieren Voor Spieren’ charity, which looks at organizing activities for children with muscle diseases.