Belgians increase Pro League to 18 teams giving a boost to Thai and Saudi club owners

By Samindra Kunti

August 3 – Belgian football has settled on a 18-team format for the next two seasons in the top flight after a court ruling, confirming Waasland-Beveren couldn’t be relegated, forced a u-turn from the Pro League. As a result, both OH Leuven, owned by King Power, and Beerschot, with a Saudi majority owner, were promoted to 1A.

Last Friday, the Pro League convened again after what has been the most muddled league organisation in Europe ever since the unprecedented decision was taken to cancel the Belgian league due to the coronavirus pandemic in April. At least this time, the Pro League finally abandoned the idea of a 16-team format to prevent more legal challenges and ensure the new season can kick off on August 8.

The new 18-team format with a shortened season-ending play-offs to crown the champions and decide the European tickets will apply for two seasons. At the end of the 2021-2022 season three clubs will however be relegated from the topflight to allow a return to the 16-team format in the 2022-23 season.

Both Beerschot and OH Leuven gained promotion from the second division following the Pro League’s decision. They had worked for weeks towards Sunday’s second leg of the play-off promotion tie, but with the new league format the match’s importance was jettisoned. Beerschot ran out comfortable 1-4 winners to win the championship.

Sheffield United’s owner Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdul Aziz has a 50% stake in the Antwerp club. Beerschot become the second club in Europe with Saudi stakeholders to play in a top-flight division. In Spain, Almeria, owned by Turki Al Sheikh, reside in the Segunda Division.

In 1b, Club Brugge’s reserve team and Lierse Kempenzonen will step in to complete the division next season alongside Lommel, now owned by the City Football Group, Westerlo, Union, Deinze, RWDM and Seraing.

Contact the writer of this story, Samndra Kunti, at moc.l1600631844labto1600631844ofdlr1600631844owedi1600631844sni@o1600631844fni1600631844