Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland fans anger over missed game time with Rotterdam stadium issues

Northern Ireland fans were left waiting outside the stadium.
Northern Ireland fans were left waiting outside the stadium.

By Paul Ferguson in Rotterdam

Northern Ireland fans hit out after stadium problems in the international team's game against the Netherlands made them miss the first 20 minutes of the tie.

Michael O'Neill's men came agonisingly close to securing a magnificent draw against the Dutch but two quickfire goals in injury time sealed a 3-1 home win in the Euro 2020 qualifier at the De Kuip stadium.

It left the 3,500 Northern Ireland fans inside the famous old stadium completely deflated.

But the result only added to their frustration on the night as hundreds of Northern Ireland fans missed the first 20 minutes of the game due to issues around getting into the ground. Turnstiles and ticket scanning systems did not work properly.

The Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters' Clubs (ANISC) branded the treatment of their members as a "disgrace", fearing they were put in a dangerous situation.

They are planning to take their complaint to football's governing body in Europe, Uefa.

The Northern Ireland fans were mostly situated in the Willem van Hanegem Tribune end of the stadium, which holds around 50,000, but due to their large numbers, they were placed over two tiers.

As the match started, there were noticeable spare seats in both the home and away sections.

The ANISC, as they do with every away fixture, had been out to Rotterdam prior to this game and held meetings with Dutch authorities to attempt to make sure everything was in order for the travelling Northern Ireland fans.

ANISC chairman Gary McAllister, who attended the game, said: “The scenes outside the stadium on Thursday night were not only chaotic, they were dangerous and had the potential to become much more serious.

“Fans were directed to the wrong entrance by stewards who appeared ill informed. After queuing for some time, they were then sent to another set of turnstiles at a different part of the stadium.

“This led to several hundred fans being crowded into a confined area, which caused considerable anxiety.

“There were also issues with the scanning of tickets, which added to the problem.

“This was not a case of fans arriving late at the stadium, as many people were there more than an hour before kick-off.

“I have contacted the Irish Football Association and asked that an official complaint is made to the KNVB (Royal Dutch Football Federation). We will also be working with our colleagues in the Football Supporters Europe network to raise the issue with Uefa.”

The Dutch Football Association said it took the matter seriously and has begun an investigation.

The Irish Football Association said it was collating information from individual fans, the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs and police regarding the apparent delay.

"The association will in turn forward this information to the KNVB (Royal Dutch Football Association) for its observations on the issues raised," a statement said.

UEFA has also been contacted for a comment.

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