Dutch Decision to Cancel Season Could be Trendsetter

There is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the current 2019/20 footballing calendar. The planet is suffering from a global pandemic for the first time in generations as Covid-19 continues to disrupt everyday life. Much of Europe is in lockdown and the signs of that easing in the UK look unlikely, at least for now. Therefore, the fate of this seasons Premier League is up in arms with more questions than answers. When will it finish? Will it finish? What happens if it doesn’t finish? Who gets into Europe? When will next season start?

These are all valid questions facing much of the footballing landscape, right from the top of the footballing pyramid to the grassroots game. The same can be said for Seria A in Italy and La Liga in Spain. However, last week a rather blunt announcement came from the top flight in Holland – the Eredivisie, that caught infrequent Dutch football followers like myself off guard. It’s over, the 2019/20 season of the Eredivisie has come to an end with immediate effect. No champion, no relegation and no promotion…is this fair and will others follow?

In a statement released by the KNVB, that’s the Dutch football association to you and me, confirmed the brutal news. The statement read: “The professional football board, after consulting clubs, players and coaches, and with the approval of the Supervisory Board, has decided to stop the 2019/20 competition and to allow the allocation of European club football sports based on the current league table.

“This is in accordance with UEFA guidelines. In relation to promotion and demotion, it has been decided not to promote and not to be demoted.

“A meeting about the premature termination of the Dutch professional football competitions has never taken place before…so nothing is included in the KNVB regulations.”

Professional footballers and coaches alike that have dedicated themselves to their sport through thick and thin will now see a blank page in the history books when it comes to 2019/20. Granted Ajax and AZ Alkmaar will feature in Europe’s footballing showpiece the Champions League next season due to league position. In fact, the Champions League is another competition plagued by circumstance as it too doesn’t show signs of concluding any time soon due to postponements. Equally Feyenoord, PSV and Willem II will compete in next seasons Europa League as they occupy the final European places in the table. However, it’s no doubt hard to take for Ajax and AZ Alkmaar who sit one and two in the table on 56 points – only separated by goal difference. Especially frustrating for AZ as they haven’t finished league champions for over a decade as Ajax miss out on what could have been their 35th Eredivisie title.

However, the relegation-threatened teams at the foot of the league can breathe a sigh of relief and hope for better next season. Alan Pardew’s ADO Den Haag were in big trouble, stuck second from bottom – yet without finishing the season and only one win to his name in Holland the silver fox has seen his side avoid relegation under his stewardship. Fair to say that Pardew hasn’t quite had the same impact on the Eredivisie as former England manager Steve McClaren…

Spare a thought for Dutch Eerste Divisie side SC Cambuur. Cambuur stands tall at the top of the Dutch second division, four points clear of closest rivals De Graafschap. Considering that Cambuur are 11 points clear of third place with nine games remaining they were almost certain to get promoted, now they have no choice but to fight it out again next season in a far less prestigious league as they are denied the chance to lift silverware come the end of the campaign.

The choice to stop the Eredivisie before all of its games have been completed appears to be set in stone, but it’s not going ahead without some opposition, and ‘some’ might just be an understatement. Dutch politician Mark Boumans had this to say following the announcement from the KNVB: “My conclusion is that half of the clubs plus one wants to reverse the outcome of this week’s chaotic decision-making.”

The coming days will tell just how strong the opposition is to the decision as Marjan Olfers, a professor of sports law stated that successful legal action: “Is indeed possible.”

Whether or not Europe’s big leagues take the unpopular decision to end the season prematurely remains to be seen. Could you imagine the outrage if Liverpool don’t win the Premier League? Maybe playing the final games of the season behind closed doors could be a viable option, but nobody would take pleasure in seeing the lifting of the Premier League trophy behind closed doors without any supporters inside of the stadium, regardless of who you support.

Taking a trip over the border from Holland into Germany, the Bundesliga hopes to be back underway as early as the beginning of May as players have already returned to training whilst in accordance with social distancing, although this is proving to be controversial.

Cancelling the Eredivisie is certainly an abrupt decision, if not thought out. Clearly the KNVB felt it was the best option, undoubtedly the safest given the current climate. Whether or not they’ll be a trendsetter for football associations across the continent remains to be seen.

Written exclusively for golear.co.uk