UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion
(5 March 2020) —
UEFA is not happy that its member associations are trying to determine what is best for them now that the world has been all but placed on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.
The football organisation has put all member nations on notice with multiple public announcements that warned there would be consequences if a federation did not exhaust all options before making the decision to cancel the remainder of its domestic competition for 2019/20.
The continental governing body issued a letter that threatened any league making such decisions at this time could be kicked out of European competition. “Any decision of abandoning domestic competitions is, at this stage, premature and not justified,” the letter wrote. “Since participation in UEFA club competitions is determined by the sporting result achieved at the end of a full domestic competition, a premature termination would cast doubts about the fulfillment of such condition.”
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin also went on German broadcast channel ZDF and made similarly strong statements, urging that all member nations must remain united in their response to this catastrophe.
“Solidarity is not a one-way street,” he told German public broadcaster ZDF. “The Belgians and any others who might be thinking about it now are risking their participation in European competitions next season.”
The Belgian league, called the Jupiler Pro League, utilizes playoffs to determine its champion. With the cancellation of the remainder of its league season, Club Brugge has been named the champion, with the team 15 points ahead at the top of the table.
“The board of directors unanimously decided that it was not desirable, whatever the scenario envisaged, to continue the competition after 30 June.”Jupiler Pro League
Teams are facing a potential web of legal entanglement should the season extend beyond June 30, which is looking more and more likely with each passing week. All player contracts across Europe are drafted with that deadline and playing beyond that date will take an exceptional amount of concession by all parties involved.
Club Brugge played this season in the UEFA Champions League, finishing bottom of a difficult Group A that included Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, and Galatasaray. The second-place club, Gent, is also positioned to have a chance to qualify for next season’s Champions League. The second-place team from Belgium enters the third qualifying round prior to the group stage draw. Gent also played in this season’s competition as well, earning just a single point from Group E play against Liverpool, Napoli, and RB Salzburg.
The league’s sole Europa League spot is determined in a more complicated format that features two different playoff rounds, with the winners playing in a one-off match to determine a winner, would likely go to third-place finisher Charleroi.
Standard de Liège, normally one of Belgium’s strongest clubs, turned in a disappointing season, finishing fifth, 21 points behind Brugge.