‘Field stormers, beer showers … protect players better’

‘Field stormers, beer showers … protect players better’
Santiago Giménez gets beer thrown at his head

NOS Soccer

Players’ union VVCS is shocked that another footballer was assaulted by a spectator Sunday at the FC Groningen-sc Heerenveen premier league match. First a man stormed the field, then Groningen player Jetro Willems tried to appease supporters and was slapped. He filed a report with the club.

“Field stormers, beer showers…. Absurd! We as VVCS once again point out to the KNVB the obligation to provide a safe working environment for players,” said the players’ union on Twitter.

Now the KNVB is indeed the organizer of professional soccer matches, but they are only responsible for security at international matches. At club matches the home club is responsible, outside the stadium the police. Still, Evgeniy Levchenko, chairman of the players’ union VVCS, thinks more can be done regarding player safety.

Soon a player will be knocked out, or a madman will come onto the field with a knife.

Players’ union president Evgeniy Levchenko

What happened at FC Groningen is not an isolated incident. Last month things went wrong at the PSV-Sevilla match in the Europa League. A PSV supporter entered the field and attacked the Spanish club’s goalkeeper. The 20-year-old man from Roermond was sentenced to three months in prison, of which one month was suspended. PSV also gave the man a 40-year stadium ban.

Last year in the match against Heracles, FC Twente player Vaclav Cerny was hit by a Heracles fan during a riot. And duels are regularly stopped because of fireworks going around in the stands.

Levchenko: “It’s waiting for things to really go wrong, especially if drink and drugs are involved. Soon a player will be knocked out, or a madman will come onto the field with a knife.”

Nets and alcohol ban

After corona, disturbances in the stadium increased. For example, in the 2021/2022 season, 179 investigations into disturbances in the stadium were initiated by the independent prosecutor of soccer association KNVB. That was almost three times as many as in previous seasons.

Since March of this year, clubs can get help in tracking down supporters who misbehave from KNVB specialists who analyze footage. That resulted in 104 stadium bans last season. The players’ union thinks that is not enough.

“Players get beer thrown at their heads when they take a corner, not to mention the speaking cries. That does something to a player.” Levchenko calls for nets to separate the stands from the field. A ban on alcohol in the stadium would also be an option, according to him.

Nets and an alcohol ban, Matthijs Keuning of Supportersvereniging Nederland sees nothing in that. “With that you punish the well-intentioned supporters. On the contrary, I’m glad we got rid of the fences since the 2000s, because that also brings back certain behavior. And you can’t stop a madman on the field with an alcohol ban, as there is often something else in there besides beer.”

Keuning sees most benefit in prevention. “Searching, better police deployment and stricter punishment.”

Police Corps

The latter is also an issue within the police corps. For example, after the Willems incident, Amsterdam police chief Frank Paauw argued in De Telegraaf for a tougher approach to soccer hooligans, such as a ban from the stadium. Those who misbehave should no longer be welcome at the next away game.

“We will soon sit down with the KNVB,” says Levchenko. He hopes the KNVB will tighten the licensing requirements for clubs, for example the requirement that “supporters cannot enter the field.”

Or that people with stadium bans will then become positively committed to their club and educate others so it doesn’t escalate.

Kayleigh Williams