Dutch Soccer Clubs To Admit Fans Into Stadiums In Protest Against COVID Restrictions

Empty stands during the Dutch Eredivisie match between sc Heerenveen and Feyenoord at the Abe Lenstra Stadium in Heerenveen, Dec. 22.
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– Empty stands during the Dutch Eredivisie match between sc Heerenveen and Feyenoord at the Abe Lenstra Stadium in Heerenveen, Dec. 22.
The country’s biggest soccer clubs are planning to open their stadium doors to the public again in spite of what the government may decide.

Soccer clubs of the two top leagues in the Netherlands have been playing in empty stadiums since November, when new coronavirus restrictions got introduced by the government. In light of the upcoming review of these measures on Jan. 25, both leagues have issued a statement declaring that either the government open stadiums back up, or the leagues will do it in defiance.

According to Dutch soccer association KNVB, the country’s clubs have lost €219 million ($249 million) in turnover in the 2020-2021 season, of which €155 million are directly attributable to the restrictions taken in reaction to the corona pandemic.
A statement published by both the Eredivisie (first division) and the Keuken Kampioen Divisie (second division) translates: “The professional soccer clubs want spectators to be allowed again at matches from January 28.”
It reminds decision makers that both leagues have “always been very accommodating and cooperative,” but added that the time to cooperate was over. 
“Time and again,” the statement continues, “professional soccer has shown that it can organize matches with the public in a responsible way: no infections, and good and thorough checks. Little or nothing is being done about this in [the seat of government] The Hague.”
Pointing to the huge losses incurred by the country’s soccer leagues, not just the top two ones, the statement says: “We can no longer play without an audience. The long-term damage [to the sector] is serious. Very serious! It affects the quality of our game.”
Since most other countries in Europe, aside from examples like Germany, are letting people into stadiums, it also creates competitive disadvantages. The funding schemes by the Dutch government weren’t enough to compensate for the loss of business resulting from being forced to play with no audience. 
“The pace of political decision-making in The Hague is too slow. We can’t wait for that. The opening of the stadiums in protest is the inevitable next step. We also owe this to our loyal supporters. Each club will discuss this with [their respective mayors].”
Clubs like VVV Venlo, Top OSS and ADO Den Haag told RTL Nieuws that they were in talks with their respective local authorities about the consequences of protesting against the rules.
“Professional soccer wants to be heard! We always want to adopt a constructive stance, and to be and remain part of the solution. Even now,” the statement concludes.
Dutch radio host Frank van der Lende is having his hair cut inside Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum, Jan. 19.
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– Dutch radio host Frank van der Lende is having his hair cut inside Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, Jan. 19.
The Netherlands’ cultural venues remain largely shut due to COVID lockdown measures, but a variety of “non-essential” shops, gyms and hairdressers were allowed to reopen last week.

Reports of people taking the streets in protest against some seemingly arbitrary restrictions, but especially against the division of society along people’s health status, are coming from all European countries. The Netherlands have been particularly active. The Dutch festival and event industry organized two protest marches, Aug. 21 and Sept. 11, under the Unmute Us banner, the first of which got attended by 70,000 protesters.

Today, Jan. 19, museums and theaters opened their doors despite not being allowed to do so. They rebranded as hairdressing and nail salons or massage studios, as these types of businesses aren’t currently facing anything near the kind of restrictions the cultural sector has been hit with. “If theaters are not allowed to open, we convert them into something that is allowed to open,” comedian and co-initiator Sanne Wallis de Vries told nrc.nl.
The idea for the initiative came from Diederik Ebbinge. When the Dutch comedian, actor and film director realized last week that a lifting of restrictions in the culture sector wouldn’t happen before Jan. 25, he decided  it was time for action. He noticed that those sectors engaging in “mutiny,” such as some of the countries retailers, they were allowed to open fairly quickly afterwards. “Apparently that’s how it works in The Hague: the loudest screamers are helped first. As a cultural sector, we have kept quiet for a long time, maybe we should try it that way too,” he told nrc.nl.