Dutch season effectively shut down by government order

For all intents and purposes, the 2019-20 Dutch league season was shut down when Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte extended the ban on public gatherings of more than 100 people from June 1 to Sept. 1 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Netherlands has been one of the hardest hit countries in Europe with more than 34,000 COVID-19 cases and almost 4,000 deaths. "It's better to be cautious now than to have regrets later," Rutte said in a nationally televised news conference.

Rutte's pronouncement rules out even playing behind closed doors, which the Eredivisie hoped to do in order to finish the season in early August. It leaves the Dutch league with several issues to sort out:

1. It needs UEFA's blessing to cancel season. The European governing body has put pressure on European leagues to try to finish their season but backed off on its threat to ban teams from next season's European cup competitions if their leagues did not complete their seasons. On Tuesday, UEFA said European leagues could be cancelled “in special cases."

“Based on the government's decision, the KNVB will consult with UEFA, after which the decision will be taken,” the Dutch federation (KNVB) said in  statement. “The KNVB has not yet definitively cancelled competitions because of financial difficulties in the football industry due to the corona crisis.”

2. It needs to decide who what's the outcome of the 2019-20 season. Ajax and AZ were tied on points with 56 after 25 games though Ajax led on goal difference. The top two teams qualify for next season's UEFA Champions League, the champion in the playoff round and the runner-up two rounds earlier. It also must decide about promotion and relegation and promotion/relegation playoffs.

This will mark the first time in the Eredivisie's 64-year history that the season has not finished and only the second time in the history of the Dutch national championship, which dates back to 1886-87. The only time there was no championship was in 1944-45 during the final year of World War II.

3. It needs to reach a settlement with Dutch network Fox Sports. Eredivisie clubs were counting on keeping their share of the final payment of 20 million euros ($21.7 million) Fox Sports had paid to fulfill the agreement worth an estimated 80 million euros ($87 million) a year. The top Dutch clubs received more than 2 million euros ($2.2 million) while the smallest received about 500,000 euros ($543,000) each.

Eredivisie clubs hoped the TV money would make up for lost gate receipts from games being cancelled -- or played behind closed doors. Of clubs in Europe's biggest leagues, they receive the highest percentage of their revenues from gate receipts -- 29 percent -- according to a recent UEFA study.

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