Club Brugges: Champions for a week!

Club Brugge Koninklijke Voetbalvereniging, one of the most popular football clubs in Belgium, have already won 16 championship titles and were declared runners-up another 23 times. Every season creates exceptional memories, no doubt. But this one will be remembered and mentioned till the end of time. No other team in the history of the sport has been declared champion for less than a week.

Belgium has been the first top-tier European football league that tried to cancel the rest of the season, following the outbreak of the coronavirus. The board of Jupiler League directors had decided on April 2nd that the current standings (after the 29th fixture played on March 7th) would be declared final. So, league leader Club Brugge would be crowned as 2019-20 season champions.

In Belgium, the Jupiler League season is carried out in two phases. The 16 teams play a round robin system (home and away games) and after the 30-match fixture the first six on the table play an additional round-robin tour (10 matches), reducing their total points by half. This additional playoff phase has been ommited.

The current table made the decision easier. Club Brugge has ensured a huge 15 point difference from 2nd AA Gent and were considered as the ultimate favorite to regain the championship title, after losing it last season by Racing Genk.

The decision appeared as imposed by the circumstances. Belgium is one of the most hard hit countries from COVID-19 pandemic. Counting more than 2,500 deaths and about 25.000 cases, they’re surpassed only by Italy and Spain when it comes to average losses by population. There’s no formula of exiting the strict measures taken by the government and the League didn’t want just to force the teams play behind closed doors just to finish the scheduled fixtures.

However, UEFA had a different view of what will happen in European football. The European governing body’s president Alexander Ceferin has informed all its members by letter that a concrete plan to resume play in July or August will be rolled out by mid-May. The letters casts doubts over Belgium’s decision to cancel the season and implies that Club Brugge’s guaranteed group-stage place in the Champions League would be at risk if the league’s plan to end the season is approved in a fortnight’s time.

On Thursday, April 9th, Belgium’s professional soccer league has delayed by more than a week the planned ratification of its decision to cancel the rest of the season. The decision was to be ratified by a full meeting of the league’s 24 member clubs on April 15, expected to be a formality after 17 of them had previously signed a letter calling for the rest of the season to be cancelled. That meeting was moved back without any explanation to April 24, prompting speculation about possible moves to overturn the decision.

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