Groningen v Ajax to finish in empty stadium after crowd trouble

A supporter who ran onto the pitch is wrestled to the ground. Photo: ANP/Cor Lasker

The Eredivisie match between Groningen and Ajax will be played to a finish on Tuesday without spectators after crowd trouble forced the referee to suspend Sunday’s game after just nine minutes.

It is the second time in three weeks that a match in the Euroborg stadium has been abandoned under the KNVB’s new rules, which require the referee to take the players off the field if objects are thrown onto the pitch.

If an object strikes a player or official, or a second incident occurs, the match is suspended and the referee must liaise with local authorities to decide if play should continue.

Sunday’s game was halted in the sixth minute when smoke bombs were hurled from the stands and a fan ran onto the pitch carrying a banner calling for the board to resign. The players returned to the pitch, but three minutes later the game was suspended again and spectators were ordered to leave the stadium.

Groningen were relegated last weekend for the first time in 23 seasons, prompting some fans to take out their anger on the club’s directors.

Club director Woute Gudde insisted Groningen had done everything possible to prevent crowd violence, including liasing with police in Belgium and Germany with experience of similar incidents.

“Obviously we had indications beforehand,” he said. “We did everything we could in advance. If someone has a foolproof solution for this I’d love to hear it.”

On April 23 Groningen’s home match against NEC Nijmegen was suspended after 18 minutes after a plastic beaker of beer thrown from the crowd hit an assistant referee. The match was resumed two days later behind closed doors and ended in a 1-0 win for NEC.

In March Groningen defender Jetro Willems was punched when he went into the crowd to try to calm tempers during his team’s home defeat by northern rivals Heerenveen.

The KNVB has launched an investigation into the latest incident at Groningen to see if further action should be taken. The rules were tightened up in the wake of the Dutch cup semi-final between Feyenoord and Ajax in April, when Ajax midfielder Davy Klaassen was struck on the head by a cigarette lighter.

Two other matches at the weekend were halted because of objects being thrown from the stands. Twente Enschede’s match against NEC was interrupted when a container of beer landed on the pitch immediately after the second goal in Twente’s 4-0 win.

The match between Utrecht and RKC Waalwijk was stopped twice for the same reason, both times after Utrecht goals. City mayor Sharon Dijksma decided the players should go back onto the field after the second incident, which came with two minutes of injury time left to play.

The teams agreed not to continue playing and let RKC goalkeeper Etienne Vaessen stand with his foot on the ball until the final whistle blew.




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