Club Brugges confirmed as Belgian champions, Pro-League sticks to 16-team format

May 18 – Belgian football will maintain a 16-team league next season after crowning Club Brugge 2019/20 champions and relegating Waasland-Beveren, who have vowed to fight the decision in court. 

Six weeks after an initial recommendation to cancel the league and crown the current league leaders as champions, the Belgian football finally started to look forward with Club Brugge celebrating their 16th title with social media messages and an online DJ set. But there was little else memorable about the Pro League’s general assembly that was both contentious and inconclusive.

In a parallel universe, Waasland-Beveren would have fought for survival on the final match day of the season and potentially in a relegation play-off, but the bottom side’s fate was sealed when a majority of clubs rejected an 18-team format for the league, effectively leaving the current 16-team format as the only solution on the table.

Beveren chairman  Dirk Huyck said that the smaller clubs – the so-called K11 – had been blackmailed and his club will seek legal action to fight relegation.

“Everyone has chosen his own interests and Waasland-Beveren was sacrificed,” said Huck. “I had hoped for solidarity among the small clubs, that is what the K11 is for. But the K11 was put under pressure, so our fate was quickly sealed. They were promised solidarity contributions if they could rubber-stamp the vote. In fact, we never had a chance. “

But, naturally, the Pro League defended its decision. “I understand that not everyone is happy with the decision, but we have chosen the solution that was most widely supported,” said  Pro League president Peter Croonen, who also  chairs Racing Genk.

“There was no formula possible where no legal steps would follow. If we chose not to allow promotion or relegation, Beerschot and OHL undoubtedly would have gone on the offensive. The transition option with 18 teams in 1A over the next three years was an option for a long time, but we would not have found the necessary majority.”

Beerschot and Leuven were still left unsatisfied with the Pro League’s decision over who will gain promotion to the top flight. Beerschot won the first leg of their promotion play-off 1-0, but the second leg is still to be played. However, the Belgian government has prohibited any games from being staged, even behind closed doors until July 31.

Leuven’s mayor is also not keen on organising the match at the start of August, but has left the door open. Bizarrely, the Pro League decided that if the second leg is not completed, league leaders Westerlo will be promoted, contradicting the first division’s own rules. The second tier of Belgian football is split into two tournaments, with the winner of each playing a two-legged play-off in order to determine an overall champion.

OH Leuven, owned by the King Power Group, have said they will go to court if a scenario in which Westerlo wins promotion materialises.

Apart from newly crowned champions Club Brugge, AA Gent were also winners. Finishing second, they will go into Champions League qualifying whereas Sporting Charleroi, Antwerp and Standard Liege will have a chance to play in or qualify for next season’s Europa League.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1591037897labto1591037897ofdlr1591037897owedi1591037897sni@o1591037897fni1591037897