Champions League: Dutch FA cancels Eredivisie games before Ajax meet Tottenham

Ajax players celebrate their victory over Juventus
Ajax beat Italian giants Juventus to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League

Dutch football chiefs have cancelled a full round of Eredivisie fixtures before Ajax meet Tottenham in the Champions League semi-finals.

Ajax were set to play De Graafschap on Sunday, 28 April, then travel to Spurs for the first leg on Tuesday, 30 April.

The Dutch FA, the KNVB, said the decision to cancel top-flight fixtures was taken to give Ajax "at least two full days of rest between games".

"Not only Ajax, but all Dutch football benefits from this," it said.

All games have been cancelled to avoid Ajax and De Graafschap playing at the end of the season once other games have taken place, potentially compromising the competition.

The round of fixtures will instead be played on Wednesday, 15 May - subject to local authorities and police agreeing to the date changes.

The KNVB said the change was needed because Ajax were in the Champions League semi-finals, the Dutch Cup final and challenging for the Eredivisie title - but stressed it was about player welfare and not a decision designed to give the team an advantage over the Premier League side.

It added clubs agreed when the fixture list was compiled at the start of the season that changes may need to be made in "the very small chance that one of the clubs would go that far in the Champions League".

The KNVB met clubs on Thursday to discuss the plans - and it admitted many were not happy about the change.

Professional football director Eric Gudde said: "We are aware that it is impossible to satisfy everyone, but a knot must be made.

"There can be no question of full satisfaction because this is ultimately not pleasant for any of the people involved. What is really nice is the reason why this was necessary: ​​the semi-final place of Ajax in the Champions League."

He also explained why all fixtures had to be cancelled, not just De Graafschap v Ajax. "That would mean that only this match was played after 12 May," he said.

"Clubs and fans deserve a fair and as exciting as possible end to the competition, hence the starting point of playing simultaneously on the last two match days.

"Ajax plays for the championship and De Graafschap is in the danger zone for relegation. Not only would the denouement remain in one game that is played later, this also gives De Graafschap more time to prepare for this perhaps decisive game than the other relegation candidates."

Gudde said moving the Ajax game back to 26 or 27 April was not possible because it would clash with King's Day celebrations in Amsterdam, one of the city's largest festivals, and cause "insurmountable problems".

Spurs play West Ham United at 12:30 BST on Saturday, 27 April. However, their league fixture against Bournemouth at 20:00 on Monday, 6 May - two days before the second leg of their semi-final - is expected to be moved by the Premier League.

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