As of today, Belgium has decided to suspend the remainder of the 2019-20 season for their top two divisions, ending the competition and naming Club Brugge champions. They have set a date of April 15th to determine European qualification as well as promotion and relegation for the rest of the leagues.
Given the money involved in English football—and the financial penalties that would come from not finishing the season—along with current plans to stage summer festival of football and UEFA relaxing the dates for determining European qualification, it’s difficult to imagine the Premier League following suit.
Still, it does serve as a second recent precedent for what happens when a season past its halfway mark cannot be completed, following Chile’s decision last November to award Universidad Catolica the title with six games remaining when violent protests forced the abandonment of the league season.
In Chile last year, Universidad were 13 points clear. In Belgium, Club Brugge were 15 points ahead with one game left before the playoffs—which put teams one through six in a group to determine the winner while the next 16, including some second division sides, compete for a Europa League place—were to begin.
Belgium’s rather convoluted approach would have seen Brugge’s points to date halved heading into the playoff round robin, likely giving them a seven or eight point lead on Gent, who would then have ten more matches to close the gap. Instead, Brugge have today been named Champions of Belgium.
That format means Brugge’s title chances were in fact slimmer than Universidad’s in Chile in 2019—and much slimmer than Liverpool’s of holding on to their 25-point Premier League lead over the final nine games. The Premier League will do everything it can to play out the season, but Belgium’s precedent is clear.