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Maccabi Haifa’s Europa Conference League match in Gent to be played without fans

Gent will play their Europa Conference League home game against Israeli side Maccabi Haifa behind closed doors amid security concerns from local authorities.

Gent published a statement on behalf of the city’s mayor Mathias De Clercq, who outlined that the February 21 fixture would have to be played without fans present.

De Clercq has said that he has taken the decision due to advice from local police based on the inability to set up an outer perimeter around the KAA Gent Stadium to make security watertight.

UEFA, European football’s governing body, have confirmed to The Athletic that the match in Belgium will be played behind closed doors.

The first leg of the tie will be played on February 15 but will not be staged in Israel — no international fixtures will be staged in the nation ‘until further notice’ — with no confirmed venue yet set.

That announcement followed the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7.

Football ground to a halt in Israel with no competitive matches being played for over a month and foreign players told to stay away.

Maccabi Haifa, the reigning champions of Israel, played their Europa League group stage match at home to Villarreal in Larnaca, Cyprus — over 200 miles away from their home city — before staging their designated home tie against Rennes in Budapest, Hungary.

They finished third in Group F and subsequently dropped into the Conference League.

Maccabi Tel Aviv’s home game against Gent in the Europa Conference League group stage on December 15 was staged in the Serbian city of Backa Topola.

Gent added that if the match is disrupted for any period of time, the club risks being given a forfeited scoreline — while any fans who had already bought tickets for the fixture would be reimbursed.

Even though no supporters will be present at the stadium, there are plans for a heavy police presence around the match.

(Guido Kirchner/picture alliance via Getty Images)



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