The Eredivisie – Netherlands’ top flight in football – has been abandoned, because of the Coronavirus outbreak. Last Friday, a conference call between the Dutch FA and clubs confirmed that the league will be declared null and void. No champion will be crowned and there won’t be any promotion and relegation. Ajax fans will undoubtedly be angry with the decision, now that the title will not be brought back to the Johan Cruyff Arena.
Ajax and AZ Alkmaar were joint at the top of the league table with 56 points, before the season was cancelled. However, Ajax were ahead on goal difference. ADO Den Hague and RKC Waalwijk were on course to be relegated, but they were given the benefit of a doubt to remain in the first division.
Reportedly, Champions League and Europa League spots will be assigned based on current positions in the table. This means Ajax would head into the Champions League playoff round, AZ Alkmaar goes to the second qualifying round and Feyenoord, PSV and Willem proceed to the Europa League.
There have been mixed reactions to this decision. Although football certainly can’t continue in this state, it doesn’t seem fair that the league is just neglected. Teams in the second tier of Dutch football have been denied the hope of promotion. The manager of Eerste Divisie team SC Cambuur said to broadcaster NOS: “It was a very bitter day because you want this to happen on the pitch, not by two or three people behind a table having to make this decision.
“There are winners and losers and in particular for the losers, it was a very very bad day so we feel sad. We feel sad that we had to come to such a decision, we sympathise a lot with those clubs and their supporters. At the same time, there was no way around it.”
“We thought it was really inappropriate to just award a title for this specific time-frame, where on the one hand the competition did not conclude, so there is no formal champion in that sense.
“But also, to take on board what society is going through, I mean talk about a champion in such a year?
“We did not believe that that was appropriate. For example, if you were to compare that to the English situation, maybe you would come to a different conclusion, Liverpool is so way out compared to the rest, I would not blame the FA to come to that conclusion. But in our case, that was simply not appropriate.”
The head coach of Cambuur, Henk de Jong, told broadcaster NOS the decision felt “like the biggest disgrace in the history of Dutch sport”.
However, Peter Huistra, the former Ajax assistant manager has backed the decisions: “The KNVB [Dutch FA] were in a very difficult position. This is a one-off situation and they couldn’t please everybody. They have decided there will be no champions, no promotion or relegation and the present standings will decide European placings. They have neutralised the league and scrapped the cup.
“There are still too many games to be played in the league. They still have to play nine matches. That is almost a third of the league. That is too much to say one club can be champions. Ajax and Alkmaar also have the same points. I think it is the right decision.
“Who is to blame? Who do you ask for compensation from? Why go to court to try and get money back? Everybody is losing out at the moment. I think everybody has to accept the situation.
“We are all in this together – the TV companies, the press, football players, sponsors, clubs and supporters. So why sue each other? We have to make sure we work together. Fans have to give up their season tickets, broadcasters have to accept they can’t show games, sponsors have to realise their logo won’t be on display.
“The TV companies need to understand at this moment they are important players and have to work with clubs and fans to save this industry. I hope they know the role they have. I think all parties have accepted they have to give up a little bit, take some damage and go on. This is a completely unprecedented crisis.”