Brussels – Belgium’s first football league prematurely ends its season because of the coronavirus pandemic as the first major European league. The Bruges FC should be proclaimed champions, the Pro League board of directors recommended after a video conference.
The league said it was “highly unlikely” that competitions with the public could be played before June 30, citing leading Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst and the government.
The General Assembly, in which all 24 professional clubs in the country are represented, still has to approve the recommendation of the Board of Directors on April 15. The league had played 29 out of 30 regular game days when play ceased in mid-March. According to the current status, it should rest until May 1st. The 15-time champion Bruges is at the top of the table with 70 points, ahead of RK Gent with 55 points. The last matchday and the playoffs are said to be canceled according to the unanimous decision of the board of directors.
“Today’s situation makes it extremely uncertain whether and when it is even possible to aim for a resumption of joint training,” said the league. In addition, the possible infection of a player threatens to influence the sporting course of the competition in an unacceptable way.
The clubs hardly have to fear financial losses. According to the broadcaster RTBF, the three owners of the transmission rights have already paid in full. Unlike in other countries, the money has already been distributed to the clubs. In addition, the Pro League has a contract that excludes repayment in the event of a season break due to force majeure, reports RTBF.
Genk’s trainer Hannes Wolf told Sky that many young players from his very international team could no longer have returned to their home countries in time. Because they are now sitting alone in their apartments in Genk, they want to continue practicing in April with an individual program and mental training.
According to Wolf, other leagues will also stop playing. “Of course, I understand what is also economically related and the difficulty of organizing a new game operation without promoters, relegated players, that everything resists to cancel it, and that everything is tried to continue playing,” said the former coach of Hamburger SV ( 38). However, it is difficult for him to imagine “that you will be back on the pitch in three, four, five weeks”.
According to the information given, a working group is to prepare a proposal for promotion and relegation in Belgium, which must then also be approved by the General Assembly. If no club were relegated this season, the 1st league would grow with two promoters from the 2nd league from the current 16 to 18 clubs. All other European football leagues – including the Bundesliga – continue to hope to end the season.