In an unprecedented move on Tuesday, the Baltimore Orioles announced that, due to the ongoing violence on the city’s west side, the team was rescheduling it’s Wednesday evening tilt against the Chicago White Sox to earlier in the afternoon in what will be a closed-door meeting between the two sides. That means, for the first time in Major League Baseball history, anyone other than players, team officials, umpires, and media are barred from the Camden Yards. Simply put, no fans will be in the stands. (The game will be broadcasted on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, and should be a very interesting watch.)
Further, the team’s weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays, scheduled to take place in Baltimore, will be moved to Florida, though the O’s will still play as the home team.
Orioles announcement regarding schedule changes pic.twitter.com/nwCDyqjzWs
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) April 28, 2015
Though, this represents a first for MLB, so-called “behind closed doors” games are not new in the world of sports. Specifically, futból (football, soccer, etc.) has seen a number of these types of games throughout its history and for a number of reasons—team punishment, safety issues, rioting, etc. Here’s a look at some of the documented instances of behind closed door games:
- 1980-81 European Cup Winners’ Cup. Due to rioting by fans during the first leg of a contest against Castilla in Spain, West Ham United was forced to play the second leg in front of empty seats at Upton Park.
- Seria A, 2007: During a midseason match between Palermo and Catania, riots broke out and, as a result, a policeman lost his life. That incident led the Italian Football Federation to suspend all matches indefinitely. When they resumed, the IFF ordered teams to play their matches behind closed doors until their stadiums met updated security regulations.
- Juventus, Serie A, 2009: After its fans hurled an absurd amount of racial abuse upon Internazionale striker Mario Balotelli during a 1-1 draw, Juventus was forced to play its next match behind closed doors.
- 2009-10 UEFA Europa League: FC Dinamo Bucureşti was forced to play two matches behind closed doors after its match against FC Slovan Liberec had to be abandoned in the 88th minute because Dynamo fans stormed the field.
- 2009 Mexico Clausura: During the final round of league matches, all teams had to play in front of empty seats because of the H1N1 outbreak in infected cities. In some cities, the closed-door requirement extended into the following week.
- 2010-11 Heineken Cup (rugby): The European Rugby Cup decided to hold a match between Edinburgh and Castres, held at Murrayfield Stadium in Scotland, behind closed doors because of weather. The match was postponed a day due to heavy snow that fell, and the competition’s organizer decided to remove any possible danger of fans traveling to the match by asking them to stay home.
- Turkish football, 2011-12: Starting with the 2011-12 season, the Turkish Football Federation put in place a modified version of the behind closed doors rule that penalized teams for crowd violence by banning ticket sales to, and attendance by, males over 12 years old. Women and children under the age of 12 (of either sex) are admitted free of charge. The first game under this rules was played in September 2011 with 41,000 women and children in attendance. It was such a successful venture that the TFF required all teams to set aside a certain number of free tickets for women and children, and upped the maximum age to 15 years old—TFF now reimburses teams for those free tickets.
- 2011-12 KNVB Cup, Ajax-AZ Alkmaar: A fourth round match between the clubs was replayed behind closed doors after a pretty horrific infield incident at Amsterdam Arena. The original match saw a fan run onto the pitch and kick AZ’s goalkeeper, who responded by kicking the fan several times before security arrived. The goalkeeper was sent off for retaliating, and AZ left the pitch in protest. Ajax was fined for the incident and eventually banned the fan from the stadium for 30 years and removed him from the season ticket list.
- Brazil, 2014: A behind-closed-door ban was instituted for two rounds of the Campeonato Catarinese second division because the participating clubs did not have proper security checks in place at their respective stadiums.
So, while Baltimore and Chicago will take part in the first empty-stadium game in MLB history, it’s far from the first team in sports to do so.