The Eredivisie, the Dutch top flight in football, was declared null and void last week, sparking inevitable comparisons to the Premier League’s current hiatus. While people are arguing the FA should follow its Dutch counterpart’s example, the situations of the two leagues should really not be compared.
This season (or should we say last season now?) in the Eredivisie unfolded into a really interesting two-horse race between AZ and reigning champions Ajax.
PSV, the usual ying to Ajax’s yang in the Netherlands, were having an awful season. Striker Donyell Malen suffered a season-ending injury in December and star player Steven Bergwijn left for Tottenham Hotspur in January, and the team from Eindhoven dropped out of the European places.
AZ emerged as Ajax’s new challenger. A club whose recruitment is driven by analytics and statistics much like Brentford in the Championship, the team full of its young prospects even went level on points with Ajax after beating the Amsterdammers 0-2 in their own back garden. Just over a week after, however, the league was postponed.
In his weekly briefing to the nation, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte announced last Tuesday the Eredivisie season, initially banned until June 1st, would be scrapped entirely. The remaining nine matchdays will not be played, not even behind closed doors, and no champion will be crowned nor will any teams be relegated. A gut-punch to any Dutch football fan, with the 2019/20 season having been the most interesting one in years so far.
On social media, the reaction to the news was very interesting. People saw it as an omen, a sign of things to come in other countries, particularly in the Premier League. Liverpool will be denied their first title since 1990, fans of other teams cried out.
Not that simple
The Premier League and Eredivisie’s situations are not comparable, however, both politically and in product on the pitch.
The reason for the Eredivisie to be cancelled rather than postponed is because all professional sporting events are now banned until September 1st, whether they have an audience or not, which will already eat into the 2020/21 season.
This scenario doesn’t exist in the United Kingdom, with each sport’s governing body taking things on a case-by-case basis rather than banning all sports as in the Netherlands. Play behind closed doors is very much an option in the UK and seems the most likely one too, if only to give fans some form of closure on the season.
Next, the way the respective leagues were shaping up were also completely incomparable. As we mentioned, Ajax and AZ were only separated by goal difference with nine games to go, whereas Liverpool are 25 points clear at the top with nine games to go.
Take a look at the Belgian Jupiler Pro League. Club Brugge were 15 points clear with one game to go when play got suspended. Although the Belgian league sees the top six go into playoffs to determine the champion after the ‘regular’ season ends, the Belgian FA decided to cancel the season and crown Club champions.
Should the Premier League not play any more games in the 2019/20 season, this is a far more likely outcome, however unfulfilling that might be. We get it, you want to see the guard of honour, the lifting of the trophy in a packed stadium, the parade in the city, and it won’t feel the same if you do it like this. There will always be an asterisk on this title, no matter what solution is found.
The decision will be unpopular no matter what. The Eredivisie shouldn’t be used as a reference point, however, just because you don’t want Liverpool to win. The two countries’ stance on the coronavirus is different and therefore, the football season will definitely be resolved differently.