LOKEREN’S Daknamstadion may not be quite up to Premier League standards with two sides having terraces filling the bottom tier.
But the near 1,300-strong travelling army of Hull City fans who are set to descend on the north Belgium town today will see a very different stadium to the one that hosted both Newcastle United and Manchester City not so long ago.
(Click the play button to watch Richard Sutcliffe’s video verdict from Lokeren)
The Belgian Cup holders have totally revamped their home for the visit of the Tigers with a new 4,000 capacity stand being opened for the first time tonight and more than 6,000 new seats installed in the rest of the ground.
Lokeren had to undertake the work to satisfy UEFA regulations after being forced to play their last Europa League tie – a play-off qualifying round clash with Czech side FC Viktoria Plzen two years ago – at the national stadium in Brussels.
“Moving that game was expensive and it also meant we had no home advantage,” said Lokeren chief executive Romain Van Schoor yesterday as he gave The Yorkshire Post an impromptu tour of Daknamstadion.
“It also upset our fans, who wanted to play in Lokeren at our home. Against Hull, we were determined that would not happen again and the president (Roger Lambrecht) has spent a lot of money on that work.”
The most impressive development is the all-seater stand that now dominates one end of the 10,000 capacity stadium (which rises by 3,000 in the domestic competitions).
Workmen were putting the final touches to the stand yesterday afternoon and Van Schoor added: “We sold the last 400 tickets this morning and everyone is looking forward to the game.
“We have had to do a lot of work, including the replacing of all 6,000 seats because, under UEFA rules, they had to be at least 30cms off the ground and ours weren’t.”
As for the City fans, they have been allocated the opposite end to the new stand plus an extra smaller area to the right. Due to UEFA rules, however, the terrace that sits in front of the away seats will remain empty.
Van Schoor said: “In Belgian league games, the terraces can be used and we usually get 6-7,000 at games. That is double what it was when I first came to the club 20 years ago. But for Hull City, the stadium will be full and the atmosphere should be very good.”
Read Richard Sutcliffe’s match report in tomorrow’s The Yorkshire Post.