Club Bruges declared Belgian champion after league canceled

BRUSSELS: Club Bruges have been declared Belgian champions after the rest of the country's professional league season was canceled on Thursday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Brugge had a 15-point lead at the top of the standings with one round of games to play before the start of the postseason playoffs, involving the top six clubs.

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

The Pro League board's decision must be ratified at a meeting of the 24 clubs in the two main divisions, but 17 of them had already called for the season's cancellation last week.

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A five-man task force has been established to decide how to deal with the issue of relegation and promotion and places in next season's European club competitions.

Ghent took second place in the standings and will be hoping for another place in the Belgium Champions League, while the country has three places in next season's Europa League.

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

Media reports on Thursday said the cup final plus the final of the second division promotion between Beerschot and OH Leuven were expected to still be playable if the government allowed it.

The decision to cancel the league campaign came the day after a UEFA meeting that recommended countries try to complete their seasons, even if that means playing until 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 previously canceled the rest of all fans football for this term