Belgian league delay ratifying decision to end season early


  • Football
  • Friday, 10 Apr 2020

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Europa League - Round of 32 Second Leg - Manchester United v Club Brugge - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - February 27, 2020 Club Brugge players pose for a team group photo before the match Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium's professional soccer league has delayed by more than a week the planned ratification of its decision to cancel the rest of the season, it announced on Thursday.

The Pro League’s board last week called time on the rest of the suspended season, citing health concerns and financial woes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Belgium hard and taken more than 2,500 lives.

The cancellation of the rest of the campaign left Club Brugge as champions with a runaway lead at the top of the standings but left other key decisions, like berths in next season’s European club competitions and promotion and relegation, to be decided by a working group.

The decision was to be ratified by a full meeting of the league’s 24 member clubs on April 15, expected to be a formality after 17 of them had previously signed a letter calling for the rest of the season to be cancelled.

But on Thursday that meeting was moved back without any explanation to April 24, prompting speculation about possible moves to overturn the decision.

That could come on the heels of UEFA criticism of Belgium not waiting to attempt to complete their campaign in the coming months as European soccer's governing body had asked its member associations to try and do.

There was also the threat that Belgian clubs might not be allowed to participate in the Champions League and Europa League next season, although this has since been tempered by Belgian and UEFA officials.

It also comes a day after the Belgian FA revoked the professional licenses of three top-flight clubs, including 10-time champions Standard liege, plus four of the eight second division sides, leaving the professional game facing a crisis.

Excelsior Mouscron and Oostende are the other two top-flight clubs accused of not fulfilling licensing requirements and financial obligations and under threat of being relegated to Belgian football’s amateur ranks.

Standard have already announced their intention to “vigorously appeal,” a club statement said.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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