Dutch football matches to be suspended if players or officials are attacked
Dutch football association KNVB has tightened its regulations regarding fan interference in matches. The referee will immediately suspend matches in the future if a football player is struck by an object thrown by spectators. The match will also be discontinued and will not resume if a spectator enters the pitch and attacks players or the referee, the KNVB said on Thursday.
If objects are thrown on the field and no one is hit, the referee will, from now on, decide to stop play and both teams will depart for their changing rooms. The referee will still definitively stop the match if objects from the stands end up on the field again after play resumes.
Moving forward, the referee will also stop play if a spectator enters the field without attacking anyone. The referee will put a definitive end to the match if an audience member steps on the pitch for the second time in the game. "Thanks to these steps, potential perpetrators will hopefully no longer take it into their heads to attack the main players on the field. We are completely done with that," said Marianne van Leeuwen, the association's director of professional football.
The measures were announced in response to an incident during the Dutch Cup semifinal between Feyenoord and Ajax, where a fan threw an object that struck Ajax midfielder Davy Klaassen in the head. Klaassen was bleeding from a wound at the back of his head as a result. The footballer had scored his team's second goals just minutes earlier. The match was temporarily suspended for a half-hour, and when play resumed, Klaassen was substituted after reporting symptoms of dizziness. Ajax went on to win the match 2-1 on Wednesday evening.
The incident outraged the football teams, the KNVB, and politicians. Police quickly apprehended the suspect accused of throwing the object, believed to be a cigarette lighter. Authorities arrested a total of 22 people after the match for lighting fireworks and throwing objects. Feyenoord previously said it identified 25 spectators who took part in ill behavior during the match at De Kuip in Rotterdam. The other three were not arrested, although they violated Feyenoord's house rules. The match had also been suspended just after kick-off due to the use of fireworks, smoke bombs, and flares behind one of the goals.
"Last night we all saw a scandalous incident where a player was not safe on the field," Van Leeuwen said on Thursday. "Unfortunately, this incident is not an isolated incident. Of course we have condemned it, because this and other misconduct in the stadiums should never be considered normal. That is not the end of it for the KNVB. The field is sacred. The players and everyone else on the field must be able to do their job safely at all times. That is why we are immediately introducing stricter measures," she said.
"Safety in and around a stadium is a top priority and we will tackle this together with clubs, supporters, municipalities, the Public Prosecution Service, the police and the Cabinet. The starting point remains that football should be accessible, welcoming and safe for all true supporters."
Spectators risk a stadium ban of 9 to 36 months if they throw objects or liquids on the field. Insulting people is subject to a stadium ban of up to 9 months. Igniting fireworks can be punished with a stadium ban of 18 months. Fans are permanently banned from stadiums after a third incident.
Reporting by ANP