BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian clubs have voted to support the possibility of a joint league with their neighbours in the Netherlands, reviving an idea first floated two years ago but put on ice because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 18 clubs of the Belgian Pro League unanimously supported an agreement on “the direction for the future” of professional football in the country.
“This future ambition is based on respect for the sporting aspirations of the top clubs and the need for economic stability for the other professional clubs,” said a statement after a meeting on Tuesday.
“There is unanimous support to realise the possibility of the BeNeLiga and give it every opportunity. The management of the Pro League will from now on take an active role in this.”
Five clubs from Belgium and six from the Netherlands have been talking to each other since 2019 about the possible creation of a joint league.
Belgium is represented by Anderlecht, Club Brugge, AA Gent, Racing Genk and Standard Liege along with Dutch clubs Ajax Amsterdam, AZ Alkmaar, FC Utrecht, Feyenoord Rotterdam, PSV Eindhoven and Vitesse Arnhem.
A study into the benefits of a joint league said it would boost total football revenues in the two countries by about 300 million euros to 1.3 billion euros ($1.55 billion).
The 11 clubs last year held preliminary discussions with European football’s controlling body UEFA over the idea but it has been rejected by supporters’ associations in both Belgium and the Netherlands, who are concerned about longer journeys to away games.
($1 = 0.8412 euros)
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Peter Rutherford)