Dutch soccer season over but no title for leader Ajax

AMSTERDAM (AP) — The rest of the Dutch soccer league was canceled on Friday and leading team Ajax won’t be declared the champion.

The Eredivisie is the first top-tier European league to end its season prematurely because of the coronavirus crisis. Belgium could ratify an end to its season on Monday.

Ajax was level on points with second-placed AZ Alkmaar but ahead on goal difference when the league was suspended on March 12. The Dutch soccer federation, known as the KNVB, said Ajax was considered to be on top of the final standings but won’t be awarded a 35th national title.

The KNVB added it will allocate Champions League and Europa League spots by the current standings.

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Among the clubs to lose out was Utrecht, which was sixth, three points behind fifth-placed Willem II, which occupied the last Europa League spot. However, Utrecht played one game less and had a superior goal difference.

There will be no promotion or relegation, meaning Cambuur won’t go up to the Eredivisie despite having a four-point lead at the top of the second division.

“It feels like the biggest scandal ever in Dutch sport,” Cambuur coach Henk de Jong told the national broadcaster NOS.

The decision came three days after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that a ban on large gatherings, including professional sports matches, was extended to Sept. 1.

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 Belgian league said this month it wanted to declare its current standings final. A meeting to ratify that decision has since been delayed twice and was now set for Monday. That’s so the league can take into account a government meeting on coronavirus lockdown measures on Friday.

“We just did not want to announce anything today that we would then, possibly, immediately have to review because of the government decisions,” Pro League spokesman Stijn Van Bever said.

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