AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch football season was effectively ended on Tuesday after the government extended a ban on major public events by three months, the Dutch football association (KNVB) said in a statement.
The KNVB said it would not continue efforts to try to complete the 2019-20 campaign, but would first consult with European football’s governing body, UEFA, which has been pushing member countries to try to finish their seasons.
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte on Tuesday banned events including professional sports and music festivals until Sept. 1 to prevent a resurgence of coronavirus infections.
“No professional football can be played, even without an audience, until Sept. 1. As a result, the board of professional football intends not to continue playing the 2019/20 league,” the KNVB said.
“Based on the government’s decision today, the KNVB will consult with UEFA after which a decision will be confirmed.
“On Friday, the clubs and other parties involved will meet to discuss the consequences.”
There has been much debate in the country in recent weeks about the possibility of resuming the season, which was suspended last month, polarising opinion in the football community.
“That the events requiring a permit remain prohibited until September 1 now offers clarity,” said the KNVB.
The Dutch follow neighbours Belgium, who had already cancelled their season, but ran into criticism from UEFA, who warned them they may not be able to enter clubs in next season’s European competitions.
“Football under the auspices of the KNVB will not be played as long as the government does not consider it safe,” the KNVB statement added.
It said it had not cancelled the season earlier to avoid potential financial losses to its clubs.
“As in other parts of our economy, efforts were being made to protect the industry as much as possible against the financial consequences of the current crisis,” the statement added.
Dutch clubs face an uncertain immediate future.
Rutte said limitations on the easing of restrictive measures were necessary to prevent a new wave of COVID-19 cases. “It’s better to be cautious now than to have regrets later,” he told a televised news conference.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Netherlands rose in the past 24 hours by 729 to 34,134, health authorities said on Tuesday, with 165 new deaths from the lung disease. Total deaths stand at 3,916.
Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Toby Davis
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