Soccer match between Belgium’s KAA Gent and Maccabi Haifa will take place without fans over safety concerns

A soccer match between Belgium’s KAA Gent and Israel’s Maccabi Haifa scheduled next month in Belgium should be played without fans because of fears of serious riots linked to the Israel-Hamas war, local authorities rule.

Belgian media reports that Ghent mayor Mathias De Clercq took the decision on the advice of local police.

Gent will host the Israeli club on February 21 in the second leg of their Conference League playoff.

“Based on police information, serious problems are expected,” says Thomas Dierckens, a spokesperson for Mayor De Clercq, as quoted by Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.

“The KAA Gent Arena has no outer perimeter, which makes control difficult, and there is a good chance that public order in and around the stadium will be disrupted. This not only has consequences for the safety of fans and players, but also sporting consequences,” he says. “If the match is stopped for more than half an hour due to disruption, UEFA will give KAA Gent a forfeit score of 0-5.”

Protests calling for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza have been taking place regularly in Ghent. Last week, pro-Palestinian activists reportedly disrupted the city’s New Year’s reception.

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