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'Ending league play was right call': Dutch club head

There was consensus in Netherlands to end season over coronavirus fears, says Fortuna Sittard President Isitan Gun

Muhammed Enes Calli   | 05.05.2020
'Ending league play was right call': Dutch club head

ANKARA

As the novel coronavirus continued to infect people and claim lives, football tournaments and domestic leagues also became victims of the pandemic, with most of them suspended or even canceled. 

On April 25, the Dutch football league Eredivisie added itself to the list of leagues in Europe abandoned over the coronavirus, including the Belgian, Scottish and French football divisions.

While other major leagues continue to discuss a return, Eredivisie shareholders reached a consensus to end the season with no champions, relegation, or promotion.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Isitan Gun, the president of Eredivisie club Fortuna Sittard, said he believes the cancellation is not a radical or unexpected decision since the world faces an unprecedented situation.

“Leagues have been ended because there is a very extraordinary situation,” explained Gun, who was born in Turkey.

“It was the right decision for us; 13-14 out of 18 clubs were already in favor of a cancellation. The players’ union and clubs don’t want to play, the security forces and health officials don’t want the leagues to be restarted, and even 80% of the supporters aren’t in favor of resuming the leagues, according to a poll.”

“The league leaders Ajax and second-place AZ Alkmaar – which didn’t lift the title for a long time – said the league [season] should be ended. There was no controversy among the clubs over the fate of the league.”

Ajax and AZ Alkmaar had each collected 56 points in 25 matches to top the league when play ended.

Fortuna Sittard was in 16th place with 26 points, which means the club would have had to face a playoff to survive in the league if the division were to end with these standings.

“There’s no reason to risk the upcoming season to play matches for the rest of this season. We ended this season and now we’re focusing on the next season.”

'Football’s place in economy overestimated'

According to Gun, the clubs and leagues will be hit hard economically by the coronavirus outbreak, but the football industry’s place in the global economy is overestimated.

“If the Premier League isn’t completed due to the virus, it will lose around €1.25 billion [$1.36 billion]. This is huge. But the GDP of the United Kingdom in 2019 was almost €3 trillion.

“The loss of the Dutch football league will be around €75 million, and this is also not too much for the Dutch economy.”

The league’s cancellation could have a domino effect in encouraging other countries to perhaps do the same, Gun said.

“It is necessary to underline that this decision was taken by the government, not the federation. The government said it is forbidden to play matches until Sept. 1, and the federation had to cancel the league,” he said.

“I don’t know how football in Italy will restart while so many people continue to die there every day,” he added, referring to news that Italian clubs are returning to training.

“There are 34 professional clubs in the Netherlands. If there were 30 players on each team, this means at least 1,000 players in total must gather together for the matches. A group of 1,000 people would have to play 72 games to complete this season. It was risky for public health.''

Gun also believes that the matches will likely begin without fans next season and the federation will prepare a detailed guideline for the clubs, including measures in the fight against coronavirus.

He added that the clubs will see the financial impact of the virus in the coming season.

''We will suffer a loss from match day income and will cut our annual budget by 30% due to the virus next season.''

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