Most Dutch football matches get go-ahead despite coronavirus threat

All football matches scheduled to take place in the Netherlands will continue as planned, except for a handful of matches that were to be played in Noord-Brabant. The decision was made at an emergency meeting held at the headquarters of Dutch football association KNVB, about the same time that health agency RIVM revealed that 503 people in the country have tested positive for coronavirus.

"Only in the final stage of the competition, when it really is no longer possible to reschedule, will we use the emergency measure of playing without an audience," the KNVB said.

The meeting was to discuss possible measure to be undertaken by the association and its membership in the wake of the increasing number of infections. All professional matches in Noord-Brabant scheduled for this weekend were cancelled on Tuesday, and the amateur matches were postponed late Wednesday morning, statements from the KNVB confirm.

Those matches which will be played will be played in front of spectators, unless local governments or health authorities say otherwise. “We will follow the government [advice] because that is where the specialists are.”

Fans attending the matches were asked by the football association to follow the good hygiene recommendations published by the RIVM, including the frequent washing of hands, sneezing or coughing into an elbow, and the use of disposable tissues. Supporters were also reminded not to shake hands, and presumably not to give each other high fives.

The suspended Eredivisie matches include Willem II vs. Heerenveen, PSV Eindhoven vs. FC Emmen, and RKC Waalwijk vs. FC Groningen. The Eerste Divisie matches that will be rescheduled include TOP Oss vs. FC Den Bosch and Jong PSV vs. Go Ahead Eagles.

Of the 12 provinces in the Netherlands, Noord-Brabant contains the highest number of patients who have tested positive for the virus. Some 223 people there are known to have coronavirus there, over 44 percent of the country's total. There were 121 patients added to the national tally since Tuesday afternoon, and over 70 percent of them reside in Noord-Brabant.

Other countries have also taken strict measures with regard to sporting events. Most UEFA Champions League matches were to be played behind closed doors or abandoned. League games are also going to be played in empty stadiums in France, Germany, and Spain.

Italy's famous Serie A league has being suspended completely until April 3.