Behind closed doors (football)

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The term "Behind Closed Doors" is used in several sports, primarily association football, to describe matches played where spectators are not allowed in the stadium to watch. The reasons for this may include punishment for a team found guilty of a certain act in the past, stadium safety issues or to prevent potentially dangerous clashes between rival supporters. It is predicted by articles 7, 12 and 24 of FIFA's disciplinary code.[1]

1980–81 European Cup Winners' Cup[edit]

After rioting by fans in the first leg against Castilla in Spain, West Ham United were forced to play the second leg at Upton Park in October 1980 to an empty stadium.[2]

2007 Italian Football[edit]

As a result of a policeman being killed during rioting at a Serie A match between Catania and Palermo on 2 February, the Italian Football Federation suspended all Italian matches indefinitely. Subsequently, matches resumed but many clubs were ordered to play their games behind closed doors until their stadiums met with updated security regulations.

2009 Italian Football[edit]

Juventus were ordered to play a home game behind closed doors after their fans had racially abused Internazionale striker Mario Balotelli during a 1-1 Serie A draw in April 2009.[3]

2009-10 UEFA Europa League[edit]

FC Dinamo Bucureşti had to play two home games in European competitions behind closed doors after their match against FC Slovan Liberec on 25 August 2009 was abandoned in the 88th minute due to a pitch invasion by Dinamo fans.

2009 Mexico Clausura[edit]

During the penultimate round of league games all teams had to play with closed doors due to the H1N1 swine flu outbreak in infected cities. Several games taking place in areas which were badly affected by the outbreak were also played behind closed doors the following week.

2010–11 Heineken Cup[edit]

In rugby union, the 2010–11 Heineken Cup pool stage match between Edinburgh and Castres at Murrayfield was played behind closed doors on 20 December 2010. The match was originally scheduled for 19 December, but was postponed due to heavy snow in Edinburgh that covered the pitch and created major access issues for potential spectators. The competition organiser, European Rugby Cup, decided to hold the rescheduled match behind closed doors to remove any possible danger to spectators attempting to travel to the match.[4]

Turkish football in 2011–12[edit]

Starting with the 2011-12 season, the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) instituted a modified version of this rule. The penalty for a team sanctioned for crowd violence is now a ban on both ticket sales to, and attendance by, males over age 12 (as spectators). Women, and children under age 12 of either sex, are admitted free. The first game under the new rule took place on 20 September 2011, when Fenerbahçe hosted Manisaspor at Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium in Istanbul. Over 41,000 women and children attended the match (plus a small number of men who had sneaked into the stadium). The experiment was so successful that the TFF planned to require that teams allocate an unspecified number of free tickets for women and children at all future club matches.[5] Shortly thereafter, the TFF stated that it would reimburse clubs for free tickets given to women and children for regular league games (i.e., games not subject to crowd restrictions), and increased the upper age limit for "children" for the purposes of free ticketing to 15.[6]

Ajax–AZ, 2011–12 KNVB Cup[edit]

A match between Eredivisie clubs Ajax and AZ in the fourth round of the 2011–12 KNVB Cup was replayed behind closed doors at Ajax's home ground, Amsterdam Arena, on 19 January 2012. In the original match, held at the same venue on 21 December 2011, Ajax held a 1–0 lead when a fan ran onto the pitch and launched a karate kick from behind against AZ goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado. The player responded by kicking the fan several times before security arrived. When Alvarado was sent off for retaliating against his attacker, AZ left the pitch, and the match was abandoned. The KNVB rescinded the red card, ordered the match replayed in its entirety, and fined Ajax €10,000 for failing to prevent the fan—who was supposed to be serving a 3-year stadium ban—from entering the pitch. Ajax accepted the penalties, and announced that it had given the fan a 30-year stadium ban and a lifetime ban from the club and its season ticket list.[7]


The French league has a tough line on misconduct. Each smoke grenade sent to the pitch results in a fine, which can then result in playing behind closed doors. If the crowd isn't managed, the club may also be punished. Hence, almost every season, a handful of matches are played behind closed doors.


In Brazil, the practice of games without public access is known as "closed gates" (in Portuguese, "portões fechados"), even referred as such in the Brazilian Football Confederation's rulebook.[8] Once it was applied to a whole tournament: two rounds of the Campeonato Catarinense second division in 2014 were behind closed doors because the participant clubs did not deliver the security checks for their stadia.[9] Sanitary reasons dictated the restriction in 2009, where two games of the Série D were played behind closed doors due to the H1N1 flu pandemic.[10]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ FIFA Disciplinary Code 2011 edition
  2. ^ "On the quiet: matches behind closed doors". 7 December 2004. Retrieved 3 October 2011. 
  3. ^ "Juve punished over racial abuse". BBC Sport. 20 April 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  4. ^ "Edinburgh to meet Castres on Monday behind closed doors". BBC Sport. 19 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  5. ^ Fraser, Suzan (21 September 2011). "Turkey wants more women and children at stadiums". Yahoo! Sports. Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  6. ^ Associated Press (30 September 2011). "Free Turkish tickets for women, children". Retrieved 2011-10-03. 
  7. ^ Associated Press (28 December 2011). "Ajax vs. Alkmaar to start from scratch". Retrieved 2011-12-29. 
  8. ^ "RGC - REGULAMENTO GERAL DAS COMPETIÇÕES" (in Portuguese). CBF. Retrieved 2014-07-23. 
  9. ^ "Resolução de Diretoria Nº 32/2014" (PDF) (in Portuguese). Federação Catarinense de Futebol. 16 July 2014. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  10. ^ "BOMBA! Jogo da Série D terá portões fechados devido a nova gripe" (in Portuguese). Futebol Interior. 13 August 2009. Retrieved 15 August 2009. 

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See also[edit]