Belgium, championship ended and playoffs canceled. Is he only the first in football?
The Belgian Pro League cancels the playoffs and declares the season ended. Debate topics and why this choice could be replicated by other countries
In rugby it has already happened in several countries, in basketball it is going to happen also in Italy. Football is ready to restart in Europe, with UEFA and national associations trying to hypothesize plans and dates for the restart, but not in Belgium. The Pro League board unanimously decided to end the 2019-20 season that ended in March by awarding the title according to the current standings, with Bruges champion. Ratification rests with the general assembly on April 15.
How the Pro League works
The Belgian championship includes a first phase with a round-trip group in which the sixteen teams face each other for a total of thirty days. Contrary to the major European leagues, the title is awarded via playoffs in which the top six in the standings compete in a round of ten rounds of ten days, each starting with half of the points scored in the first phase rounded up. The winner goes to the Champions League groups, the second to the third qualifying round and the third to go to the third qualifying round of the Europa League. The playoffs continue for the teams ranked from seventh to fourteenth for access to the second qualifying round of the Europa League divided into two groups of four teams for six round trips. The winning teams of the two groups face off in a final scheduled in two round trips. Finally, the winning team will face the fourth place in the playoffs for the title always with a return and from this challenge the participant will come out in the second qualifying round of the Europa League. The last two classified meet in a series of the best of five games, with the penultimate starting with three bonus points and the advantage of the field factor with the possibility of playing the beauty at home. The loser moves back into the Tweede klasse, the winner plays the promotion playoffs against the teams placed from second to fourth in the cadet series with round-trip matches that will establish the newly promoted in the Pro League together with the team that won the Tweede klasse.
The choice of the Pro League came after a member of the scientific committee on Coronavirus, Dr. Van Ranst, explained that it is very difficult to play with the public before June 30 and that an early recovery would involve risks for players, employees and everyone the professionals involved in organizing the matches. Finishing the championship with this classification, Brugge will be champion for the sixteenth time after the last title of 2018.
At the moment and with this conclusion with a game to play before the playoffs, Brugge goes to the Champions League groups and Gent to the preliminaries. However, it is not clear who will participate in the Europa League and a criterion for promotions and relegations has not been established. The national cup final between Bruges and Antwerp is also on hold. It will be interesting to understand how the team will choose a criterion to settle the issue, given that other national leagues may decide to end the season and choose not to want to return to the field before 2020-21. One of the reasons why this decision was made is that there are no Belgian teams involved in the Champions League and Europa League round of 16 but other countries may have this problem. Furthermore, in Belgium the formula for awarding the title, participating in the cups and promotions and relegations is that of the playoffs, the same as for basketball. A debate in Italy is underway on how sportily correct it is to interrupt the season without playing it, because the playoffs call into question the results of the regular season and it is not obvious that the team with the most points at the end of the regular season then becomes champion. Belgium could become the first country to take a decision at the table canceling the decisive phase of the championship and from this point of view it could be taken as an example by other leagues in case similar decisions were made.