Eredivisie-Belgian Pro League set to coalesce

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Belgian and Dutch football leagues to merge Image: Jupiter Pro League & Eredivisie

Belgium’s top-flight Pro League soccer clubs have voted unanimously to support a proposed merger with the Dutch Eredivisie league.

The proposed ‘BeNeLeague’, bringing together the Eredivisie and Pro League, has been under consideration since at least 2019 when the Belgian professional football club – Club Brugge owner Bart Verhaeghe disclosed about the project.

The Belgian First Division A, or Belgian Pro League since the 2015-16 seasons, is the top league competition for association football clubs in Belgium.

The Eredivisie is the highest level of professional football in the Netherlands. The league was founded in 1956, two years after the start of professional football in the Netherlands. As of the 2020-21 seasons, it is ranked the eighth best league in Europe by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). The Eredivisie consists of 18 clubs.

The ‘Belgian Pro League’ stated, “The General Assembly of the Pro League today (March 16th, 2021) unanimously voted an agreement in principle on the direction for the future ambition for Belgian professional football. This future ambition is based on respect for the sporting aspirations for the top clubs and the need for economic stability for the other professional clubs. There is unanimous support to give the possible realization of the Beneleague every opportunity. The management of the Pro League will now take an active role in this.”

The ‘Belgian Pro League’ added, “The Beneleague must be accompanied by the assurance of economic stability for the other professional clubs through the creation of one national top league based on sustainable licensing and competition rules. The vision also means that the U23 teams of the professional clubs can compete in the National Amateur series. To ensure this future ambition for Belgian professional football, the Pro League will review the licensing conditions.”

A formal proposal has yet to be unveiled but reports suggest an 18-team structure, with Eredivisie teams AFC Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord, and AZ Alkmaar among the Dutch representatives along with Belgian professional football clubs R.S.C. Anderlecht, Club Brugge, Standard Liège, K.R.C. Genk, and K.A.A. Gent (Belgian First Division A) from Belgium.

Both leagues’ existing domestic broadcast deals end in 2025. Eleven Sports’ five-year Pro League rights deal is worth €103 million (US$112.2 million) per season, while ESPN’s 12-year deal with the Eredivisie brings in €80 million (US$98.1 million) a year. A previous Deloitte study revealed that the BeNeLeague could generate up to €400 million (US$476 million) annually from television rights deals.

Anderlecht coach Vincent Kompany has been a vocal supporter of the merger project, terming it as “a question of survival”.

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