Teams threaten to sue Dutch football association: No promotions in season cut short

With reporting by Jamie de Geir.

Dutch football association KNVB made several controversial decisions to close out the 2019-20 season, prematurely cut short by the global health crisis. The association chose on Friday not to relegate two teams from the Eredivisie, nor to promote two teams from the Eerste Divisie. It also sparked anger from one club at the way in which it was cut out of European football competition for the upcoming season.

The KNVB left it up to a vote of 34 football clubs following a meeting Friday afternoon, with no clear majority emerging in favor or against promotion and relegation. Thus, the KNVB chose to freeze the teams involved for the next season.

That means ADO Den Haag and RKC Waalwijk will remain in the Eredivisie, while SC Cambuur and De Graafschap will be denied their chance to move out of the Eerste Divisie. Amsterdam club Ajax, which stood at the top of the Eredivisie table, also will not be awarded the league championship.

It will however get to play in the group stage phase of the Champions League, along with current second place team AZ Alkmaar. The Europa League places will go to Feyenoord, PSV, and Willem II, even though the latter played 25 matches while most of the rest of the table played 26. That decision was particularly hard on FC Utrecht which would have gone into the Europa League in the place of Willem II if it had won the Dutch Cup final against Feyenoord. The final was supposed to take place on April 19.



Anger over not getting a shot at top-tier play

“I am speaking now out of my own emotions. But I will not leave it like this," said Henk de Jong, manager of SC Cambuur in Leeuwarden, in an interview with NOS. "This is simply not possible. I would leave this to the best lawyers out there.”

Cambuur's director, Ard de Graaf said even if there was the slightest chance of a successful lawsuit, they have to go for it. "For us, promotion to the Eredivisie is equivalent to Ajax playing football in the Champions League.”

Cambuur led the Eerste Divisie, known this year as the Keuken Kampioen Divisie, since October. The team was on its way to getting a shot to re-enter the Eredivisie for the fourth stretch in team history, having been relegated four years ago.

Because of that, De Jong said, “This is the greatest shame in the history of Dutch sport."

Anger over the way the KNVB handled the vote

Equally angry was Hans Martijn Ostendorp, the director of De Graafschap, which plays in Doetinchem, Gelderland. The team has bounced back and forth between the Eredivisie and Eerste Divisie, having been promoted and relegated five times in the last fifteen years.

Though initially the KNVB took a vote with the 34 clubs who have teams in the two competitions, the KNVB ultimately overruled the vote. Sixteen clubs had voted in favor of promoting two teams and relegating two teams, nine clubs voted against. The other nine clubs abstained. With no majority vote, the KNVB said the decision rested on its shoulders.

Ostendorp said he was extremely upset by how the decision was made and that no explanation was given for the football association's plan. "I am really, intensely angry. I am unbelievably angry," he said.

The team's management plans to regroup over the weekend and will then lay out their options to decide how best to move forward.

"I find this scandalous," Ostendorp said in a video posted to the team's Twitter account.

Anger over getting cut out of European play

For getting cut out of European League play, FC Utrecht also threatened legal action on Friday. The team said it was "unacceptable" that the team's performance in the Cup competition was "completely ignored" by the KNVB. "FC Utrecht is just as entitled to this ticket as fellow cup finalist Feyenoord -and even more entitled because it has won a cup match more than Feyenoord- which is not included in the presentation of the decisions today," the team said in a statement.

The team also said its position on the Eredivisie table also should justify its placement in Europa League football. "FC Utrecht is at position six of the Eredivisie at the end of the competition, but the club has played a match less than number five, Willem II. In the explanatory notes, the KNVB has not spoken a word about the fact that FC Utrecht has played a match less than Willem II and would overtake the Tilburg team in the rankings with a win. In that case FC Utrecht has the same number of points, but a much greater goal difference, more goals scored and a better mutual result."

FC Utrecht accused the KNVB of being intransparent and unfair in its decision, and hinted it would also pursue a case against the KNVB.