The Antwerp professional teams therefore know – two days before the competition start in 1A – where they stand. For a few weeks it seemed that Beerschot, Antwerp and KV Mechelen would experience a lot of nuisance from the stricter corona measures in the province of Antwerp, to which the sport is of course also heavily subject.
Wednesday’s press conference of Governor Cathy Berx did not yet provide a definite answer, but sports minister Ben Weyts (NVA) did provide clarity. The sports competitions, including the Jupiler Pro League, can restart under certain conditions in the Flemish Community.
There is a ban on contact sports in the province of Antwerp, so in principle the football matches on Antwerp soil could not take place. A problem for Antwerp, which will receive Mouscron on Saturday, and KV Mechelen, the opponent of Anderlecht on Sunday. The clubs and the Pro League hoped for an exception for professional football and they have now received it.
Weyts’ decision also concerns amateur competitions. According to Weyts, local authorities and the sports federations themselves are and will remain authorized to impose stricter measures or not even to allow competitions to start.
“That ball has been passed around for a while, huh,” said Minister Weyts in an initial reaction. “It was a difficult decision, but it is not because it is difficult that it should not be taken. Someone has to do it and I’m not afraid to take my responsibility. We were just together with the Flemish and German-speaking Community. Initially the tenor was to postpone the decision until Friday, but you can’t wait until one day before the competition starts? So yes, you can play football by professionals all over Flanders. Also in Antwerp. ”
Not a Covid capital
However, virologists and epidemiologists have been skeptical in recent days. “Celeval’s advice sometimes went in several directions. That’s right. It was always: yes, but … That makes sense. Epidemiological assessments must be made, as well as social considerations. That’s why it became a political decision, and you can’t ban everything that’s nice. If you see that you can play football in red zones such as Barcelona and Leicester, then you should be able to do that too. If you don’t, you really declare yourself the Covid capital of Europe. That is not the intention. ”
At the same time, Minister Weyts gives professional football a warning. “Football makes efforts to ensure that everything runs smoothly, but they are also well aware that they have an exemplary social role. If things go wrong around certain matches, it will be done quickly. ”
The Pro League, the association of Belgian professional clubs, was of course at the table with Weyts and Celeval, the advisory group of virologists. The Pro League states that the “elaborated protocols and exemplary behavior” of supporters make it possible to start the competition in Antwerp.
However, the Pro League emphasizes that strict rules will still be adhered to and that detailed protocols are in force. “Among other things, it states that players must also effectively avoid any avoidable contact, such as after a match or after scoring a goal. It also underlines the social exemplary function of professional clubs ”, it sounds. The Pro League probably refers to the joy scenes after the cup win of Antwerp in Brussels and the promotion of Beerschot in Leuven. Players and technical staff flew around each other in all euphoria without respect for the distance measures. This was criticized afterwards.