AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - No Dutch top-flight league soccer title will be awarded this season after the COVID-19 pandemic brought the campaign to a premature close, the Dutch FA (KNVB) said after a meeting with clubs and unions representing coaches and players on Friday.
However, Ajax Amsterdam and AZ Alkmaar, who were level on points at the top of the standings with nine rounds of matches still to play, will go into next season’s Champions League.
The campaign was declared over on Tuesday when the Dutch government extended a ban on public events to Sept. 1 in an effort to curtail the spread of the new coronavirus, which has caused more than 4,000 deaths in the Netherlands.
Ajax were top of the Eredivisie table with 56 points from 25 games, only ahead of AZ on goal difference, and both teams will now fill the Netherlands’ qualifying places in UEFA’s 2020-21 Champions League, Europe’s elite club competition.
“In these times, under these circumstances it is not appropriate to speak of a championship, therefore we only confirm the placing of the clubs as per the last standings,” the KNVB said in a statement.
On the basis of top place, Ajax will take the Netherlands’ automatic place in the Champions League group phase while AZ will enter the competition at the preliminary round stage.
AZ, this season’s surprise package, were last in the elite competition in 2009-10 when they reached the group stage.
Third-placed Feyenoord Rotterdam will compete in Europa League group phase, while PSV Eindhoven, who are fourth, and Willem II Tilburg in fifth will be in the preliminary rounds.
It was also decided there would be no relegation and promotion after a vote of the 38 first and second division clubs.
ADO Den Haag and RKC Waalwijk were expected to be relegated after filling the bottom two places to be replaced by the top two in the second-tier — Cambuur Leeuwarden and De Graafschap.
But it was decided that the same 18 clubs from this season will contest the top flight again in the next campaign.
“Unfortunately, with the cabinet’s most recent corona measures, it has become impossible to play out the rest of the 2019/2020 season,” the FA statement added.
“It will be crystal clear to everyone involved, from supporters and players to directors and referees, that public health always comes first.
“Today’s decisions made about the settlement of the competition were for a mere football problem in the perspective of what the corona virus has caused to society.
“Nevertheless, the KNVB is aware that today’s decisions will cause great disappointment in football for some,” the FA said.
Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ken Ferris