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Club Brugge declared Belgian champions after season cancelled

BRUSSELS – Club Brugge have been declared Belgian champions after the remainder of the country’s professional league season was cancelled on Thursday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Brugge had a runaway 15 point lead at the top of the standings with one round of matches left to play before the start of the post-season playoffs, involving the top six clubs.

They were runners-up last season to Racing Genk, who were seventh when the league was suspended last month in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The decision by the Pro League board must be ratified at a meeting of the 24 clubs in the top two divisions but 17 of them had already last week called for the season to be cancelled.

A five-man working group has been setup to decide how to deal with the issue of relegation and promotion and places in next season’s European club competitions.

Ghent were second in the standings and will be hopeful of being given Belgium’s other Champions League place while the country has three berths in next season’s Europa League.

The working group will also decide what to do about the Belgian Cup final between Brugge and Antwerp, which was to have been played in Brussels on March 22 but was also suspended.

Media reports on Thursday said it was hoped that the cup final plus the second division promotion final between Beerschot and OH Leuven could still be played if the government allowed.

The decision to cancel the league campaign came the day after a UEFA meeting recommended that countries try to complete their seasons, even if it means playing on into August.

But clubs in Belgium, where the death toll from the coronavirus passed 1,000 on Thursday, have been pressing for more than a week for a conclusion to the campaign amid growing concern over finances.

Belgium had already previously cancelled the remainder of all amateur football for this term.

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