The suspended Eredivisie match between rivals Ajax and Feyenoord will resume on Wednesday behind closed doors, the KNVB has confirmed.
Sunday’s game was abandoned in the 56th minute with Feyenoord leading 3-0 at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam after the match had already been paused twice. The third offence saw flares thrown onto the pitch, resulting in supporters being told to leave the stadium and make their way home.
Police then had to stop supporters rioting outside the stadium, while it’s reported that numerous fans tried to break into the ground, with online footage appearing to confirm this.
Feyenoord players and staff were kept inside their dressing room for an extended period for their own safety, while the Rotterdam club didn’t have fans at the game due to previous incidents in this fiery fixture.
The KNVB have now confirmed the match will be completed at 2pm local time (1pm UK time) behind closed doors, with Ajax’s match against FC Volendam on Wednesday to be rescheduled.
— KNVB (@KNVB) September 25, 2023
Ajax released a statement saying they disagreed with the decision due to fixture congestion — as did FC Volendam — and were considering legal action. They have since relented, however, with the KNVB insisting the game must be restarted as soon as possible to maintain the league’s integrity.
“The basic principle is that the competition must be as fair as possible and that a match should therefore preferably be decided on the field. The match must then be resumed as soon as possible,” the KNVB said.
A statement from Ajax on Tuesday morning accepting the KNVB’s decision, but clarifying that the club will enter ‘intensive consultation with the KNVB, read: “After seeking advice and subsequently consulting with FC Volendam, Ajax believes that going to court is not in the interest of the Eredivisie.
“However, the club will enter into intensive consultation with the KNVB and the ECV because the decision-making method does not take into account the legitimate interests of clubs and the regulations give far too great a degree of policy freedom to the KNVB and the competition board, which increases the risk of arbitrariness and unmotivated decisions.
“The remainder of the Ajax – Feyenoord match will therefore be played on Wednesday, September 27 from 2:00 PM, without an audience.”
How did Ajax find themselves in this mess?
2022/23: Third, trophy-less and no Champions League football
There has been a sharp and shocking decline in Ajax’s fortunes across 2023 so far. Despite leading the 2022/23 Eredivisie table for extended periods during the early part of the season, Ajax slipped down to third thanks to a terrible run of draws either side of the new year; they ultimately took just four wins from their final nine games.
As a result, the perennial champions slipped to third for the first time since 2009, finishing a massive 13 points behind champions Feyenoord, missing out on Champions League football, and failing to win a trophy for the first time since 2017/18.
Edwin van der Sar steps down
Following that poor 2022/23 showing, legendary goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar stepped down from his role as director general, saying he needed to ‘get some rest’.
“After almost 11 years on the board, I am done. We have experienced wonderful things together, but it has also been an incredibly tough period,” he said. “I am very grateful for the people I have met and worked with during my second career at Ajax, and what we have achieved and been through together.
“I feel the need to take some distance, to get some rest, and to do other things. It doesn’t feel good to take decisions about the future of this wonderful club in the coming period. That is why I have decided to resign.”
Van der Sar suffered a brain haemorrhage in July and required intensive care. He was able to go home later in the month, posting on Twitter: “I’m happy to share that I’m no longer in the intensive care unit. However, I’m still in hospital. I hope to go home next week and take the next step in my recovery!”
Worst start to a season since in the 1960s
With a record 36 Eredivisie titles and four Champions League titles among their various honours, Ajax are undoubtedly the most successful club in the Netherlands, even eclipsing rivals and fellow ‘Big Three’ members PSV and Feyenoord. However, that level of success drives up expectations.
So far in 2023/24, they’ve woefully underperformed those expectations. With just five points from four Eredivisie matches so far — coupled with a 3-3 home draw with Marseille in the Europa League — Ajax are currently enduring their worst start to a season since 1964/65.
Sven Mislintat hired and fired
Sven Mislintat is most famous for his work in changing fortunes at Borussia Dortmund, helping a club on the verge of bankruptcy become back-to-back Bundesliga champions, Champions League finalists, and home of some of Europe’s biggest stars at the time such as Robert Lewandowski, Ousmane Dembele and Shinji Kagawa.
His work since then, however, has not gone as well. Mislintat endured failed spells with Stuttgart and Arsenal before being hired as director of football at Ajax in April, replacing Marc Overmars, who himself stood down in February 2022 after admitting to sending a series of inappropriate messages to female colleagues.
A number of big-name players left Ajax over the summer, including Jurrien Timber, Dusan Tadic, Mohammed Kudus and Edson Alvarez, with the club spending big on replacements that have, thus far, failed to deliver.
On Sunday, Mislintat was fired due to ‘lack of support within the club’, with the decision coming just hours after the ugly Der Klassiker scenes.
De Klassieker humiliation leads to ugly scenes
There are some huge rivalries in football but few as bitter as De Klassieker. Two of the traditional Dutch ‘Big Three’, hailing from rival cities and contesting multiple finals and title races down the years, it’s safe to say Ajax and Feyenoord don’t like each other.
This is a fixture that has seen more than its fair share of trouble down the years but Sunday took things to a whole new level, fuelled — but not justified — by Ajax finding themselves 3-0 down within 56 minutes on their own patch. That, combined with the recent turmoil and poor form at the club, created a powder keg just waiting to go off.
Of course, we all know what happened next, with scenes no football fan wants to see.
KNVB announce game to restart on Wednesday, with Ajax (eventually) agreeing
As mentioned, Sunday’s clash will now resume from the 56th minute on Wednesday afternoon, with Ajax agreeing to the change only after strongly considering taking legal action against the KNVB. A new date for their match against Volendam — who are just four points behind Ajax inside the relegation zone — is yet to be announced.