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Anger swells at Dutch decision to end Eredivisie season

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AMSTERDAM — Dutch top-flight club FC Utrecht is preparing for legal action to fight the Royal Netherlands Football Association decision to cancel the remainder of the league season and allocate places in next season’s European competitions based on the standings when play was halted by the coronavirus crisis.

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Utrecht likely will not be alone in challenging the decision that also said there would be no relegation and promotion between the country’s two top leagues.

The Netherlands was the first top-tier European league to cancel the remainder of the season. Neighboring Belgium could also end its season at a meeting Monday.

Cambuur Leeuwarden, leader of the second-tier Keuken Kampioen division, is furious that it was denied promotion.

“I can’t understand it,” said the club’s director, Ard de Graaf. “It feels very unjust.” He said the club was considering its position.

Utrecht owner Frans van Seumeren told local broadcaster RTV Utrecht on Friday night that his club will “use all the lawyers we can” in a bid to overturn the decision from the Dutch FA.

When the season was canceled, Utrecht was sixth in the Eredivisie, three points behind fifth-place Willem II, which occupied the last Europa League spot. However, Utrecht played one game less and had a superior goal difference. It also had reached the final of the KNVB cup competition.

AZ Alkmaar, which ends the season level on points with Ajax but second due to an inferior goal difference, also is unhappy about the decision which would see Ajax enter the Champions League at a later stage than AZ.

UEFA said on Thursday it would support a “different format” being used to decide leagues, potentially opening the door to systems like playoffs. It also said it wanted Champions League and Europa League spots allocated on “sporting merit.”

The KNVB also said that Ajax, while it officially finishes in top position, will not be crowned champion.

That was tough to take for playmaker Hakim Ziyech, who is joining Chelsea next season.

“I think everybody around Amsterdam had hoped for another ending,” he said in an interview on the club’s website. “But sadly, that’s not the case.”

Eredivisie cancels 2019-20 season, does not declare champion

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The Dutch top flight has officially announced the cancellation of its 2019-20 season, declaring that no champion will be crowned. The decision comes three days after the Netherlands government banned all sports through September due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The league also announced that there will be no promotion or relegation this season, meaning that teams in danger of the drop – namely ADO Den Haag (managed by Alan Pardew) and RKC Waalwijk – will remain in the top flight, while clubs in the running for promotion such as Cambuur, Volendam, De Graafschap, and NAC Breda will miss out.

The KNVB announced the decision on Friday after a vote by all the clubs in the league. The KNVB also confirmed that increasing the size of the league to 20 teams – essentially, accommodating promotion but not relegation – was not considered as a viable option in the proceedings. In the wake of the government’s decision, teams had announced their reluctant support for the abandonment of the season, with Ajax posting a statement declaring the situation “regrettable” but “inevitable” as “the interest of public health predominates all else.”

The decision not to crown a champion comes with Ajax leading the table on goal difference over AZ Alkmaar, with both teams level on 56 points. Ajax had led the entire way, but all five of their league losses had come from December 6 on, allowing AZ back in the race.

On Thursday, UEFA announced that while they can make special accommodations for leagues that see their hands forced by government decisions, they still strongly advise countries to finish their domestic seasons. UEFA also said that “in an ideal scenario” qualification for the Champions League and Europa League will come “on sporting merit,” leaving the Champions League status of clubs like Ajax and AZ Alkmaar in limbo.

Dutch FA investigates racist chants at match

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch soccer association says it is investigating racist chants that prompted a referee to briefly suspend a second-division match.

The association, known as the KNVB, says “unfortunately, racism is a problem in society that sometimes raises its head in soccer.”

The incident happened during Sunday’s match between FC Den Bosch and Excelsior Rotterdam. The KNVB says its protocol for offensive chants “was correctly implemented” when referee Laurens Gerrets took the players off the field after 30 minutes of play following chants directed at Excelsior player Ahmad Mendes Moreira, who is black.

In a statement on the club’s website, Mendes Moreira says “from the first minute all kinds of things were shouted at me and it hurts a lot.”

The KNVB says it is working with FC Den Bosch to track down and punish those responsible for the chants.

FC Twente board resigns amid scandal, possible they lose professional license

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FC Twente, one of the biggest clubs in the Netherlands and producer of some of the best European talent, has a high probability of losing its professional license, according to KNVB executive Bert van Oostveen.

“It is true that the club really hangs by a thread,”he told RTV Oost. “I’m not optimistic that Twente will play professional football next year. In fact,. Then I think more likely that they do not play it.”

On Tuesday, an independent report led by Ben Knüppe concluded that there was an “unhealthy culture” at Twente, and the club deliberately misinformed the KNVB about its relationship with Doyen Sports. In November, news broke that the club brokered a deal with Doyen that promised the company a cut of transfer fees in return for an investment. In addition, the leaked documents suggested that Doyen had significant say in club transfer policy, something which the club has refuted. Twente has already been banned from European play for three years by the KNVB.

The independent report suggested that the entire board step down in light of the findings. Today, the club announced they had followed that recommendation, with Director Gerald van den Belt and Joop de Winter stepping down immediately and Hennie ten Hag and Hein Trebbe to leave their posts next week. Chairman Aldo van der Laan resigned when the news broke in November.

The club also announced it has two months to meet governance structure guidelines laid out in the report, and should they fail to do so, their license would be revoked and the club would be unable to play professionally until the license is renewed or reinstated.

“My goal is that the club next season still has a license,” Interim Director Onno Jacobs said. “We are currently in receivership at the KNVB and the municipality of Enschede. We do not have everything in our own hands, but are doing everything to restore the health of the club.”

For any club, a scandal of this nature is not just embarrassing but potentially permanently damaging. However, for a club like Twente, which is known globally for producing young talent, grooming it to the professional level, and then profiting on the sale to larger clubs, it is particularly troubling.

FC Twente president steps down amid investigation of transfer deals

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Aldo Van der Laan, the President of Dutch club FC Twente, has stepped down after allegations of shady transfer dealings have surfaced.

This week, a website posted a contract dated 2014 between Van der Laan and Malta-based Doyen Sports Investments that saw a payment of $5.3 million from the company to the club in exchange for between 10 and 50 percent of the transfer rights to seven Twente players.

In a statement on its official website, the club said “Van der Laan has stated that the club is always of paramount importance to him, and that is now in jeopardy. Continuing doubt about him harms FC Twente.” The statement went on to say the Dutch federation (KNVB) is investigating, and that the club will cooperate.

FIFA outlawed third-party ownership of players to keep outside forces from influencing transfer deals. The alleged contract posted is dated before the FIFA ruling went into effect, but the KNVB has outlawed third-party ownership for a while.

According to Dutch reports, five of the seven players listed on the contract have already been sold, including current Southampton midfielder Dusan Tadic. The contract states that the two remaining players, Shadrach Eghan (with the first team) and Kyle Ebecilio (on loan at Championship club Nottingham Forest) must be sold by the end of the season, or the club must pay a $1.48 million fine to Doyen.

Those same reports also suggest Twente is likely to see some form of sanction, with some serious possibilities including relegation, a large points deduction, or a transfer ban as long as two years.