Belgian football fans who have not been vaccinated can return to a stadium this Friday for the first time since October last year to watch a match. Sporting Charleroi is setting up a stand especially for them for the home match against Royal Antwerp FC.
The club says on its website that it has special permission from the Belgian government for the stands for unvaccinated people. Supporters have been welcome again in the Belgian football competition since June 24, but only if they have a so-called Covid Safe Ticket, the local version of the European corona certificate. Where previously a third of the normal amount of spectators was allowed in, clubs are allowed to fill their stadiums again from next weekend.
There are still restrictions in Charleroi’s ‘unvaccinated sector’. A maximum of one third of the seats may be occupied by groups of a maximum of eight people. Wearing a mouth mask is mandatory, it is only allowed on the seat. Drinks may only be consumed while seated.
The club management has reserved a stand behind one of the goals for fans without vaccination, or with only one shot. Normally that is the area where the away supporters are. However, they are not welcome now due to the corona restrictions. The Stade du Pays de Charleroi, built for the 2000 European Championship, can accommodate approximately 15,000 spectators under normal conditions.
Test for access
In the Netherlands, under the current measures, access to sports stadiums is only possible with a valid negative corona test, a vaccination certificate or proof of a corona infection in the past six months. There are no plans for an exception such as the one in Belgium, according to the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. “If people are not vaccinated but still want to go to the stadium, they can do so through access tests. We have set up the entire system for that,” said a spokesperson. “We want this to be safe in places where many people come together, such as football stadiums. That includes testing or vaccination.” If requested, the KNVB will inform you that it will follow government guidelines.
Charleroi’s stadium has previously been used occasionally as a vaccination site, according to the municipality and the Walloon ministry to encourage residents of the city to get vaccinated. In Wallonia, one of the three regions of Belgium, the vaccination rate is less than 60 percent. That is a lot lower than in Flanders, where it has already had a first shot against 80 percent of the adult population.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of August 11, 2021