Belgium’s Pro League cancelled and Club Brugge declared champions due to coronavirus

The Belgian top division is the first major league in Europe to end its 2019-20 season early due to Covid-19, with the current leaders named winners

The Jupiler Pro League, the top tier of Belgian football, has become the first major football league to end its 2019-20 season early due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In an announcement on Thursday, it was confirmed the Pro League will not resume after being suspended following the worldwide outbreak of Covid-19, which has all but stopped football around the world.

It was confirmed that all fixtures until the point of abandonment are valid, and the current standings in the division are considered the final placings this season. That means league leaders Club Brugge have been crowned as champions of Belgium for this season.

In an official statement, the board of directors of the Pro League said the decision had been made as it was unlikely matches would be able to take place before the end of June, unless they were played behind closed doors, and even then there would be a significant risk to players and matchday staff.

With the additional factor that players are currently unable to train properly for the forseeable future, it was thought better to end the season immediately.

The recommendation now just needs to be endorsed at a general assembly meeting on April 15, a process which is set to be a formality.

A league statement read: “The Pro League board of directors met today by conference call. The most important item on the agenda was obviously the issue of continued competition in the context of the coronavirus crisis.

“The current situation, particularly precarious, in which our country finds itself has as a consequence that sport is not and cannot be considered as the first concern, however entertaining and relaxing it may be.

“In this context, it is the responsibility of the Board of Directors to make a recommendation, taking into account public health, the interests of all stakeholders and the wishes of the majority of clubs. to not resume competition.

“The Board of Directors has taken note of the recommendations of the authorities, according to which it is very unlikely that matches with the public can take place before June 30. The current situation does not allow us to know if and when a resumption of collective training can be planned.

“In addition, a resumption of competition could not exclude the risks to the health of players, employees and all those involved in the organisation of matches and in maintaining order. In addition, the possible contamination of a player or a core of players risks influencing the sporting development of the rest of the competition in an unacceptable manner.

“Even if closed matches were theoretically possible, the additional pressure that the organisation of such matches would place on health services and law enforcement should be avoided. In addition, the decisions of the local authorities threaten to make it impossible to run the championship days simultaneously.

“The Board of Directors unanimously decided that it was not desirable, whatever the scenario envisaged, to continue the competition after June 30. Taking into account the above elements, the Board of Directors made a unanimous recommendation to not resume the competitions of the 2019-20 season and to accept the current classification of the Jupiler Pro League as classification final, subject to the decisions of the licensing commission.”

Club Brugge were runaway leaders of the Pro League when the last round of fixtures were played on March 7, 15 points ahead of second-placed Gent.

One match remained of the regular campaign in the 16-club division before the end of season play-off, when the top six sides usually compete to decide the champions and qualification for European football.

It remains to be confirmed whether Brugge will take Belgium’s place in the Champions League group stage; they are also due to have one side in the third qualifying round, and two teams in Europa League qualifying.

Waasland-Beveren, who were bottom of the table with 20 points from 29 matches – two points from safety – appear to have been relegated to Belgian First Division B.

The statement also said the Pro League has set up a working group to look at the sporting and financial implications of the decision, which would also look at whether the remainder of domestic cup competitions could be played.

The final of the Belgian Cup, between Club Brugge and Antwerp, was due to take place on March 22 but has been suspended indefinitely.