AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch football reluctantly accepted Monday’s decision by the government to ban spectators from all sporting events to slow a second wave of novel coronavirus infections.
But a testy statement from the Dutch FA (KNVB) said there was no scientific evidence that linked crowds in stadiums with the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
Limited numbers of fans had been allowed into stadiums for the opening rounds of the new league season but will now have to stay away after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced a raft of new restrictions he said were unavoidable due to the speed of the virus's spread.
It included closing sporting events to the public, limiting gatherings to 40 people, earlier closing times for bars and restaurants, limited travel between major cities and the wider use of cloth masks.
“The cabinet has come up with drastic measures. They hit the whole of society hard. Extremely hard. And so also professional football. But apparently this is necessary,” said the KNVB statement in response.
“This is of course very sour, all the more because there is no scientific evidence between the presence of an audience in a stadium and the increase in the number of corona cases in the Netherlands.
“And football has really done everything and invested heavily to create a safe environment in the stadiums. We believe that this has worked out very well and research shows this.
"We have been inundated with compliments from local authorities. Nevertheless, the government is now opting for these measures. We have to accept this. Unfortunately. Football must also takes its responsibility,” the KNVB added.
Daily new infection rates have passed their earlier peak in April. The National Institute for Health (RIVM) on Monday reported 2,914 new cases, just shy of Sunday's record 2,995.
Hospitalisations and deaths are below April's levels, but the head of the country's intensive care units warned that non-essential procedures will be delayed to make way for COVID-19 patients again starting this weekend.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ken Ferris)