Belgian top tier becomes 1st major league to cancel season, award title

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The top tier of Belgian football is set to become the first major European league to cancel its season in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, awarding Club Brugge the 2019-20 title.

The league's board of directors made the decision Thursday during a conference call, setting a precedent amid doubts that competition would be completed ahead of June 30, the date UEFA pegged for the conclusion of domestic seasons.

"The board of directors took note of the recommendations ... of the government that it is highly unlikely that games with the public will be played before June 30," read a statement from the board, according to ESPN UK.

It continued: "Even if games behind closed doors could theoretically be possible, the additional pressure they place on health and order services should be avoided. Moreover, decisions by local authorities threaten to make a joint course of match days impossible."

Brugge boasted a commanding 15-point lead atop the table with 29 of 30 matches played ahead of the league playoff round featuring the top six sides. Gent sat second to secure the second of two Champions League spots. Charleroi stood third, missing out on a lucrative berth in Europe's top continental competition by a single point.

Oostende and Wassland-Beveren, who sat 15th and last, respectively, will both avoid relegation with the 16-team league set to swell to 18 sides for the 2020-21 season.

The board's decision awaits ratification at a meeting of representatives for the 24 clubs in the top two tiers on April 15. Seventeen of those clubs called for the cancellation of the 2019-20 campaign last week.

Belgian top tier becomes 1st major league to cancel season, award title
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