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UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion


AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - MARCH 03: UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin attends the press conference during the 44th UEFA Congress at Beur van Berlage on March 03, 2020 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Lukas Schulze - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

UEFA via Getty Images

Following the announcement that the Belgian top flight had cancelled the remainder of its league season, UEFA has put all member nations on notice with multiple public announcements that warned there would be consequences if a federation did not exhaust all options before calling time on its domestic competition.

The continental governing body issued a letter that threatened any league making such decisions at this time could be kicked out of European competition. “Any decision of abandoning domestic competitions is, at this stage, premature and not justified,” the letter wrote. “Since participation in UEFA club competitions is determined by the sporting result achieved at the end of a full domestic competition, a premature termination would cast doubts about the fulfillment of such condition.”

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin also went on German broadcast channel ZDF and made similarly strong statements, urging that all member nations must remain united in their response to this catastrophe.

“Solidarity is not a one-way street,” he told German public broadcaster ZDF. “The Belgians and any others who might be thinking about it now are risking their participation in European competitions next season.”

The Belgian league was suspended with just one matchday remaining in its regular season, although the league does utilize playoffs to determine a champion. With the cancellation of the remainder of its league season, Club Brugge has been named the champion, with the team 15 points ahead at the top of the table. “The board of directors unanimously decided that it was not desirable, whatever the scenario envisaged, to continue the competition after 30 June,” the league said in a statement.

Teams are facing a potential web of legal entanglement should the season extend beyond June 30, which is looking more and more likely with each passing week. All player contracts across Europe are drafted with that deadline and playing beyond that date will take an exceptional amount of concession by all parties involved.

Club Brugge played this season in the Champions League, finishing bottom of a difficult Group A that included Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, and Galatasaray. Gent, who sits in second, is also looking at a possible spot in the Champions League next season, entering in the third qualifying round. They played in this season’s competition as well, earning just a single point from Group E play against Liverpool, Napoli, and RB Salzburg.

The league’s one Europa League spot is determined in a more complicated format that features two different playoff rounds, with the winners playing in a one-off match to determine a winner, would likely go to third-place finisher Charleroi. Usual Belgian power Standard Liege finishes the season in a disappointing fifth, 21 points back of the top spot.

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