The next two seasons, the Jupiler Pro League consists of 18 teams. Both Waasland-Beveren, OH Leuven and Beerschot will play in 1A next season. Lierse Kempenzonen and the promises of Club Brugge will take part in 1B. That was just decided at the General Assembly of the Pro League.
Today’s decision ends an months-long soap opera in Belgian professional football. In May, the Pro League decided through a vote on a competition with 16 teams. Waasland-Beveren would be relegated to 1B. Oud-Heverlee Leuven and Beerschot were allowed to decide among themselves who promoted to 1A.
Degradant Waasland-Beveren did not agree with that decision because there was still a chance of water before the end of the competition due to the corona virus that they could save on the last day of play. And so the club went to court. He agreed with Waasland-Beveren, so that the Pro League had to find a solution at a rapid pace.
18 teams in 1A
That solution has now been found in the form of a First Division A with 18 teams and shortened play-offs. In the first vote shortly after noon, 40 percent of the votes were still the proposal for a competition with 17 teams. The rest voted for 18 teams. In that first proposal, the promotion final between Beerschot and OHL had to decide who could go to 1A.
After an extra round of negotiations, the necessary two-thirds majority was quickly found to finish the Jupiler Pro League with 18 teams in the next two seasons. In the end, only Westerlo voted against. They had won the regular league in 1B on the basis of the points total and hoped to be promoted in this way. A mediator is now being appointed to find a solution with Westerlo to avoid the club going to court.
Happy faces at Waasland-Beveren, but also at OH Leuven and Beerschot. They will, however, just finish the promotion final on Sunday to avoid additional legal problems that may arise later.
Another point of discussion was the playoffs. Both rights holder Eleven Sports and some clubs – especially AA Ghent – did not want to delete it. In the end, the playoffs are retained in a mini version.
After 34 match days, the points are halved and the top four of the regular season play a “Champions Play-off”. It determines who will become champion and who will receive the most important European tickets. Numbers five through eight play for the last Europa League ticket.
Lierse and promises Club Brugge in 1B
The expansion of 1A also has its impact on First Division B. There were suddenly only six teams more, so that Lierse Kempenzonen is fished as the last remaining Belgian club with a professional license. In order to hit eight clubs, Club Brugge’s promises will also take place in 1B.
These eight teams no longer play in periods, but simply finish a regular season in which they all meet four times. The champion promotes to 1A and takes the record of the latter there. The number two plays jump-off against the penultimate from the Jupiler Pro League. This gives the teams in 1B an extra chance to obtain a PhD.
The newly developed competition format will continue for two seasons. In the season 2022 – 2023, there will in principle be a return to the old system that had been in force in recent years with 16 teams in the Jupiler Pro League and extensive play-offs. This means that at the end of the 2021 – 2022 season, three teams must be relegated from 1A. What will happen to 1B is not yet known and probably also depends on how many teams manage to obtain their professional license.
The decision not to return to the old formula after just one season comes at the request of the smaller first-graders. They even hoped for three transitional years in order to get over the corona crisis with a little more certainty.
When does the season start?
A final point of discussion was delaying the start of the competition. It is scheduled for August 8. Waasland-Beveren, Beerschot and Oud-Heverlee Leuven wanted to postpone that start because otherwise they only have one week more to prepare and do any extra transfers now that they are sure of 1A. In the end, the clubs decided to abandon that requirement, in their own words “in the interest of Belgian football”.
The teams therefore have a very busy calendar, because the top eight of the Jupiler Pro League play no fewer than 40 league games. And that while the season has started later than in recent years due to the corona crisis. The new calendar will be presented tomorrow.