Behind closed doors (sport)

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The term "Behind Closed Doors" is used in several sports, primarily association football,[1] 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.[2]

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.[3]

1982–83 European Cup[edit]

After rioting by fans in a semi-final at Anderlecht in Belgium the previous April, Aston Villa were forced to begin their defence of the European Cup at an empty Villa Park in September 1982, with the match kicking off at 2.30 pm on a Wednesday afternoon.[4]

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.[5]

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. Games behind closed doors have been played regularly as a penalty for bad behavior of fans in Mexico, most recently an Apertura 2015 game in which Atlas hosted Querétaro at Estadio Jalisco because of last season quarterfinal game in which Atlas fans invaded the pitch against their hated rivals Guadalajara.

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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8]

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 extended the fan's stadium ban to 30 years and given him a lifetime ban from the club and its season ticket list.[9]


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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12]

United States[edit]

Behind closed doors matches in the major North American sports leagues (including Canada) are exceedingly rare, as local law enforcement, private security contractors working for either the team or a league, and national agencies such as the United States Department of Homeland Security take large roles in preventing situations of fan violence before they can occur by restricting access to known troublesome fans either at the gate or even at the stage of selling tickets (such as 'do not sell' lists), along with heavy restrictions on bringing in items and screening with metal detectors and pat-down searches where bringing in a weapon or explosive device can result in immediate arrest and lifetime ejection from a venue, and other examples such as the National Football League's "clear bag" policy. Teams also have incentive to prevent fan violence due to forfeit rules which come with penalties to their records and playoff positioning, and league sanctions such as fines and the stripping of draft picks due to neglecting to create a safe environment for players, which in turn can affect teams for years beyond a violent event.

Major League Baseball[edit]

On 28 April 2015, Major League Baseball announced a game between the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles to be played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore that evening would instead start at 2:30 p.m. ET, with no fans being admitted. The unprecedented decision came due to security concerns related to civil unrest in the city, along with a 10 p.m. ET curfew which would have required suspension of the game had it been played at its original time. The game was to have been the last game of a three-game series, but the first two had already been postponed due to the unrest. The game was televised in the Baltimore and Chicago markets, and was also offered as a "free game of the day" on MLB's streaming service nationwide.[13] Unofficially, some fans were able to watch the game through obstructed gates in left-center field, along with guests at the nearby Hilton Baltimore which overlooks the playing field.[14] This was the first time a North American major league sports event would be held in an empty sports venue; previously in minor league baseball, a 2008 Iowa Cubs game was played without public admittance due to flooding in Des Moines, Iowa, while a 2002 Charleston RiverDogs game in Charleston, South Carolina held a purposeful gimmick "Nobody Night" where no one was admitted to the park until the attendance figure was made official after the fifth inning.[15]

PGA Tour golf[edit]

While large galleries consisting of thousands of fans are standard for top-level professional golf events in the United States, on 30 June 2012, the third round of the 2012 AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland was played without fans being admitted due to trees being downed and other storm damage caused by a derecho the night before. Additionally, the start of the third round was delayed to the early afternoon, instead of a morning start that is normal for a round of a golf tournament utilizing a stroke play format, in order to allow for the continuation of course clean-up efforts. This is the first of two recorded instances of any part of a PGA Tour event being played without a gallery present.[16]

In the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in the La Jolla community of San Diego, California, after inclement weather disrupted play on Sunday and several trees were ripped apart on the golf course, fans were barred from the premises for the Monday conclusion of the final round of the tournament due to safety issues.[17] As of the end of the 2015-2016 PGA Tour season, this is the only instance of the conclusion of a PGA Tour event being played without spectators admitted.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Behind Closed Doors". Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  2. ^ FIFA Disciplinary Code 2011 edition
  3. ^ "On the quiet: matches behind closed doors". 7 December 2004. Retrieved 3 October 2011. 
  4. ^ "Ipswich assignment no Roman holiday" by Peter Ball, The Times page 22, 15 September 1982
  5. ^ "Juve punished over racial abuse". BBC Sport. 20 April 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  6. ^ "Edinburgh to meet Castres on Monday behind closed doors". BBC Sport. 19 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  7. ^ Fraser, Suzan (21 September 2011). "Turkey wants more women and children at stadiums". Yahoo! Sports. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 24 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  8. ^ Associated Press (30 September 2011). "Free Turkish tickets for women, children". Retrieved 2011-10-03. 
  9. ^ Associated Press (28 December 2011). "Ajax vs. Alkmaar to start from scratch". Retrieved 2011-12-29. 
  10. ^ "RGC - REGULAMENTO GERAL DAS COMPETIÇÕES" (PDF) (in Portuguese). CBF. Retrieved 2014-07-23. 
  11. ^ "Resolução de Diretoria Nº 32/2014" (PDF) (in Portuguese). Federação Catarinense de Futebol. 16 July 2014. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  12. ^ "BOMBA! Jogo da Série D terá portões fechados devido a nova gripe" (in Portuguese). Futebol Interior. 13 August 2009. Retrieved 15 August 2009. 
  13. ^ Staff report (28 April 2015). "White Sox-Orioles game will be played Wednesday, closed to public". Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  14. ^ Encina, Eduardo A. & Kaltenbach, Chris (29 April 2015). "Even with Camden Yards closed to public, fans found way to support O's". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  15. ^ Castrovince, Anthony (28 April 2015). "MLB game without crowd also without precedent". Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  16. ^ Associated Press (30 June 2012). "Play under way, but fans out". Retrieved 9 August 2015. 
  17. ^ "Course closed to public tomorrow due to safety issues". Farmers Insurance Open Twitter page. Retrieved 12 October 2016. 

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