A waterlogged pitch at its national stadium forced the Belgian national team to play its Euro-qualifier against Serbia in a different stadium and without spectators. To add insult to injury, most of the spectators had received a significant discount on their ticket price following a poor performance of the team in the match against Sweden.
The match has been moved to the nearby city of Leuven. The pitch at the local stadium is in a much better condition, as it hasn’t been used recently. However, with the city not being able to implement its security protocol on such short notice, it will not allow spectators to attend the game.
According to Manu Leroy, the Director of Marketing and Communications at the Belgian FA, “There are simply not many alternatives in Belgium. If there were three to four top stadiums here for 30,000 to 35,000 spectators, then there would be no problem. Then you could rotate between those stadiums.
“But today, no stadium comes close to the Koning Boudewijn Stadium in terms of capacity. We sell around 40,000 to 42,000 tickets for the top matches.
“We hope that the Koning Boudewijn Stadium can be modernized in the coming years and that clubs that have the ambition to build will eventually be allowed to do so.”
Many clubs and stadiums in the highest Belgian football league still don’t recognise the importance or need for a (qualified) groundsman. And of those who are recognised, only a few have the benefit of having permission from the club to experiment with and to investment in technology to maintain the quality of the surface.