Players’ union VVCS believes that the KNVB and clubs should intervene harder to guarantee the safety of the players. That is what VVCS chairman Evgeniy Levchenko says in conversation with NU.nl on Monday after the punch that Jetro Willems received from his own supporter on Sunday during FC Groningen-sc Heerenveen.
“It is worrying that players are being hit or kicked. In my opinion, it is no longer a safe working environment,” says Levchenko. “It is alarming that we are all going to find this normal.”
Groningen defender Willems received a slap in the face from his own supporter on Sunday in the Eredivisie game with Heerenveen after he wanted to appease an argument. The underage FC Groningen fan was arrested after the game, but has since been released. Willems did file a report against him on Monday.
Levchenko finds the violence against Willems disturbing. “The players are not sufficiently protected from the clubs and the KNVB. Tougher action is needed. It is nice that we create an atmosphere in which the supporters are close to the field, but then the supporters have to behave.”
‘Fear that player will ever lose an eye or tooth’
The incident with Willems is not an isolated incident. Last year, FC Twente striker Václav Cerný received a slap in the face from a Heracles fan in the Eredivisie match with Heracles. Last month, a PSV supporter attacked the Sevilla goalkeeper.
The chairman of the VVCS is concerned about the increasing number of incidents. “I’m afraid that a player will lose an eye or a tooth, and then we will all say: ‘We should have intervened earlier’. This is not how you should deal with your players.”
After the incident with Cerný in April last year, the VVCS spoke with the KNVB. “The KNVB considers the subject important, but after words, actions must also come,” says Levchenko. “I think that the KNVB and the clubs should act much harder. Practical solutions must be found.”
Levchenko does not know what solutions are needed to prevent similar incidents. “We don’t have to think about what needs to change. Clubs have to think very carefully about the safety of the players. You have to create distance between the supporters who show misbehavior and the players.”
The KNVB does not want to respond to the call from the VVCS. According to the football association, clubs themselves are responsible for the safety in their stadiums, a spokesperson told the news agency AP.