Matthijs Keuning is worried. He is chairman of the Dutch Supporters Collective and sees things happen that do not make him happy. “The bar is getting lower and lower to impose bans on away supporters,” he says.
Ban in Leeuwarden
The best example of Keuning’s statement can be found in Leeuwarden. Mayor Sybrand Buma does not want to see away supporters of football clubs in his city this season. Reason: the riots after the match against sc Heerenveen, at the end of February. The strange thing is that the away supporters did not cause any riots at all, the fans of Cambuur Leeuwarden did that themselves.
The club itself does not agree at all with the decision. “As SC Cambuur, we deeply regret this decision and it is first and foremost a wrong step and also in the wrong direction,” the club said.
Things are not going well in Groningen either. The police in the north of the Netherlands stated in a statement that it refuses to accompany fans of Cambuur and FC Groningen to away games. It simply goes wrong too often, says the police. Joop de Schepper, acting police chief of the Northern Netherlands: “As police, we cannot afford to have to be present every time so en masse to facilitate a football match.”
‘No longer facilitating a small group of supporters’
In Groningen, officers were confronted with intimidating and threatening behavior from the hard core, the police said. That would also happen in the private sphere. In Leeuwarden there is always a need for a lot of police. “We no longer facilitate a small group of supporters, at the expense of a large group of police officers and citizens,” the police said.
The Supporters Association of FC Groningen says it takes a ‘significant distance’ from the threats against agents. But: “As a Supporters Association, we can never agree to the collective punishment of well-intentioned FC Groningen supporters.”
Police spokesman Maarten Brink understands the choices of the police, you can read his arguments in the tweet below:
Mayor Buma van Leeuwarden therefore chooses not to allow away fans to the Frisian capital for the other home games this season. That while they actually have nothing to do with it. According to Keuning, the decision can sometimes backfire. “The relationships are much more sharp if you allow fans again later. This is of no use to you.”
Mayor Buma is not the only one who opts for this horse remedy. Earlier this season, a travel ban for away supporters was also chosen in Kerkrade at Roda JC. And this also happened after disturbances from the home fans.
These kinds of bans, as in Kerkrade and Leeuwarden, are new, says Keuning. It sometimes happened in the past, but only in matches that involved a heavy risk, such as Ajax – Feyenoord, or ADO Den Haag – Ajax. Now fans of clubs who were not present at all at the game are screwed. “We are taking steps backwards in this way and we lack a vision of how we can move forward again,” says Keuning.
Sometimes things really go wrong
It sounds very unsympathetic to treat your guests like this, but sometimes really annoying things happen in the entertainment industry. Recently, Twente fans threw chairs on the field at Go Ahead Eagles from the away section, causing the match to be stopped.
Matthijs Keuning of the supporters’ collective also sees that things sometimes go wrong, and also believes that people need to be dealt with. “But tackle the perpetrators. There is hypermodern camera surveillance everywhere. Or better yet: get started with preventive measures such as youth work. That will help you.”
The supporters association of FC Groningen also looks at it this way: “We hope that those who do this will be caught soon. But all FC Groningen supporters who sometimes visit an away match now bear the consequences of the actions of individuals and are stated in the various statements also more or less dismissed as supporters that you have to keep away.”
By far, most matches in the Eredivisie are ‘normal’ away supporters welcome. But even where they are allowed to enter, the way is becoming increasingly difficult. For example, the authorities are increasingly using the means of ‘bus combi’. This means that supporters must take the bus from a location in the city of their own club.
A branch in Germany:
Keuning’s supporters’ collective keeps track of those figures. This season, a bus combination applies to 21 percent of the matches so far, in 2020 (the last year before corona) only to 7 percent of the matches. The competitions with ‘free transport’ are actually decreasing, from 15 percent in 2020, to 8 percent now. Free transport means that it doesn’t matter how you get to the stadium. Keuning immediately adds: “We also see that municipalities and the police are more likely to take measures like this because of the shortage of police personnel.”
‘This season really breaks the trend’
Keuning indicates that until the arrival of the corona virus, there was a slow relaxation of heavy transport regulations. “There were fewer bus combinations, but since 2019 there has been a decline from free transport to private transport, so it is mandatory to travel by car instead of completely free. This season there is really a huge trend break with many more bus combinations and much less free transport.”
So nowadays you think twice or three times before visiting an away match of your favorite club. Because if you do that, you are often not in a nice place in the stadium. In the Netherlands – unlike Germany and England, for example – we often put the guests high up in a corner, where no one can see them.
It does hurt Keuning a bit. “In Germany and England they have decided that it is part of the football culture, away supporters are prominently seated in the stadium, in England even mandatory on the first ring. In the Netherlands we criminalize them. With fences, nets, and a place in a corner or at the top.”
Singers for the atmosphere
Is it really all doom and gloom in away supporters country? Not that either. We close on a positive note. Literally, because in Leeuwarden, which was still criticized in this article, things went very well before their ban. Keuning: “At halftime there was a singer there at the exit section every match. Nice to have a party with a beer in hand. Good for the atmosphere, and you can see that in the stands.”
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