Friday’s decision to not award the Dutch league title to Ajax Amsterdam was understandable, said the club’s general manager Edwin van der Sar as the season in the Netherlands was formally brought to a premature close by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ajax were top of the standings with nine matches left to play when the season was suspended last month.
But the former European champions will not be awarded the title, the Dutch football association (KNVB) decided after hopes for a resumption of the season ended earlier this week when the government extended a ban on public events until September 1.
It is the first time since 1945 that there will be no Dutch champion.
“As players and coaches, you want to win the title on the field,” said Van der Sar, the former Dutch national team and Manchester United goalkeeper.
“We have been top of the table throughout the season, so it is a pity we haven’t been able to become champion but given the situation we are in, it is understandable. There are a lot more important matters than football right now,” he told the club’s television channel.
Ajax will, however, compete in the Champions League next season, taking up one of the two places for the Dutch in the competition.
AZ Alkmaar, who had caught up to Ajax in the weeks before the suspension of the league and were only behind them on goal difference, will start in the preliminary rounds.
The KNVB, after a meeting on Friday of its 38 clubs, decided that Feyenoord Rotterdam, PSV Eindhoven and Willem II Tilburg, who are the next three in the standings, would participate in the Europa League, saying they were following UEFA guidelines issued earlier this week.
But sixth placed Utrecht, three points behind Willem II but with a game in hand and also still to play the Dutch Cup final against Feyenoord, said they would not accept the decision.
A lengthy statement on its website (fcutrecht.nl) said it would seek judicial relief and also take its case to UEFA.
“It is unacceptable that the cup is ignored and does not provide a ticket to European competition,” it said.
The KNVB also decided on Friday not to go ahead with promotion or relegation, much to the distress of second division leaders Cambuur Leeuwarden, 11 points clear in the automatic two promotion places.
“It is the biggest scandal in the history of Dutch sport,” the club’s coach Henk de Jong told reporters on Friday.