Belgium: fans to be compensated for late cancellations

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Travelling fans in Belgium will be compensated if more than one of their club’s away fixtures falls victim to a late cancellation due to the weather, thanks to a deal negotiated by fans’ group the Supportersfederation Profclubs (SfP). Belgium, as with Britain, has experienced some awful weather in the past few months and some clubs have had as many as three games cancelled.

The SfP felt their members’ loyalty to their clubs deserved some recognition and approached the top-flight Jupiler Pro League to see if they would be willing to compensate fans for wasted journeys. Surprisingly, the Jupiler Pro League agreed and a system has been set-up to do just that.

From now on an inspection will take place 25 hours before any top-flight kick-off evaluating the state of the pitch and stadium as well as taking in to account the weather forecast. It is then decided if the game should go ahead, or be postponed. If a game is given the all-clear, only to be called off at a later time, then action is to be taken on behalf of supporters.

Most fans in Belgium travel to away games by coaches, which are chartered by supporters’ clubs. If it is the first time that season that a club cancelled a game at less than 25 hours notice the club are effectively given a warning - the system acknowledges that mistakes can happen and that weather conditions can deteriorate. However, if this happens for a second time fans will see 50% of their coach travel costs refunded, and if it happens for a third time 100% of the costs. The Jupiler Pro League will cover the cost and these refunds can then be passed on to fans.

This is an issue that the FSF has touched on before, back in December 2010 we asked if late postponements should earn fans a travel refund? Many fans would be sceptical, reasoning that the clubs have no control over the weather and often lose out financially themselves. However if the Belgian top-flight, with its relatively meagre resources, can afford to refund fans travelling via supporters’ coaches, the Premier League could certainly afford to as well.

At the height of the bleak British winter FSF chair Malcolm Clarke said: “I’ve sympathy for clubs but it's the fans, particularly those of the away team, who suffer the most. We've heard tales from followers of many clubs who had battled through the blizzards and travelled hundreds of miles to games, only to arrive at a ground and be told the game was off. I would like to see the Premier League clubs with a bit of money offer their away fans in these situations compensation in the form of free or subsidised travel to the rearranged fixture.”

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