Eredivisie cancels season without any champion, relegation and promotion | Football

The Dutch Eredivisie has become the first major European football league to cancel its season in response to the coronavirus crisis. For the first time since 1944-45, the Dutch top flight will not have a champion and there will be no relegation or promotion either from the 18-team division.

A decision to end the season appeared inevitable after the Dutch government this week banned all sporting events until 1 September. The details of Friday’s decision were determined by the league, its clubs and the Dutch FA (KNVB). They set a precedent that may be followed by other competitions in Europe and generated controversy in the Netherlands.

“Under these circumstances it is not appropriate to speak of a championship and there is no champion,” the Eredivisie said in a statement. “Because many rounds still have to be played in the competitions, we believe that we cannot apply promotion/relegation [either].”

European places were granted to teams, however. This was based on the league table as it stood, a process in accordance with new Uefa guidelines.

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The league leaders Ajax have been granted a place in the final play-off round of the Champions League. Second-placed AZ Alkmaar will enter the second qualifying round of the same competition while Feyenoord, in third place, will enter the group stages of the Europa League. PSV Eindhoven (fourth) and Willem II (fifth) will enter qualifying for the Europa League.

Some of the calls on European qualification are marginal. Ajax led AZ by goal difference with nine games to play, and Utrecht were three points behind Willem II with a game in hand and better goal difference. But the real controversy, which highlights the challenges of ending a suspended competition fairly, came with the suspension of promotion.

After a vote was split on determining the best way to resolve promotion and relegation, the KNVB was given authority to make a determining decision. It ruled against any movement between the Eredivisie and the Eerstedivisie below, which meant that Cambuur, 11 points clear of third place in the second tier, were denied promotion.

ADO Den Haag manager Alan Pardew (right) and his assistant coach, Chris Powell, will be relieved of there being no relegation with their team currently in the bottom three.

ADO Den Haag manager, Alan Pardew, and his assistant, Chris Powell, will be relieved there is no relegation with their team second from bottom. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty

Cambuur’s head coach, Henk de Joong, said the decision “feels like the greatest disgrace ever in Dutch sport”. He added: “What happened here is unworthy of sports.”

Meanwhile, La Liga has indefinitely postponed a round of Covid-19 tests that they had proposed to carry out on Spain’s first-and-second division players next week as a preliminary step towards a return to training.

The league wrote to the clubs informing them of the decision on Friday afternoon, as they continue to await a green light from the ministry of health. It had anticipated permission to be granted soon and hoped to begin testing on 28 April with a view to subsequently beginning a four-phase protocol for a return to training in the second week of May but the preliminary round of tests now appear set to be suspended.

The league wrote to clubs amid criticism for plans that involved ever player undergoing tests next week and then daily antibody tests for a month upon the implementation of the protocol. Some questioned how that could be justified a time when front line medical staff have not been tested for Covid-19. The head of the supreme sports council (the CSD) and effectively the minister for sport, Irene Lozano, had expressed a commitment to help complete the football season. A CSD statement insisted that sport has an important social and economic role to play. But the decision remains in the hands of the ministry of health and it is yet to give the go-ahead.

The protocol remains in place, ready to be activated, and the league told clubs that it hoped the delay would be “as short as possible”.

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