BELGIUM PRO LEAGUE A
The Belgian First Division A is the top league competition for football clubs in Belgium. Following the 2015–16 season it was renamed from the Belgian Pro League (officially known as Jupiler Pro League. Contested by 16 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the Belgian First Division B. Seasons run from late July to early May, with teams playing 30 matches each in the regular season, and then entering play-offs 1 or play-offs 2 according to their position in the regular season. Play-offs 1 (also known as the title playoffs) are contested by the top 6 clubs in the regular season, with each club playing each other twice. Play-offs 2 (also known as the Europa League playoff) are contested by teams ranked 7 to 15 in the regular season, divided in two groups of 6 teams playing each other twice (three teams from the Belgian First Division B also take part in playoff 2). The team finishing in 16th place is relegated.
The competition was created in 1895 by the Royal Belgian Football Association and was first won by FC Liégeois. Of the 74 clubs to have competed in the first division since its creation, 15 have been crowned champions of Belgium. RSC Anderlecht is the most successful league club with 34 titles, followed by Club Brugge KV (14), Union Saint-Gilloise (11) and Standard Liège (10). It is currently ranked 10th in the UEFA rankings of leagues based on performances in European competitions over the last five-years. The competition was ranked 3rd when the UEFA first published their ranking in 1979 and also the next year in 1980, which is the best ranking the Belgian First Division has ever achieved.
COMPETITION FORMAT AND NAMING
Starting with the 2009–10 season the format of the Pro League has been drastically changed. Playoffs were introduced after the regular season, the number of teams was decreased from 18 to 16 and the calendar has also been modified, with matches being played during the Christmas holiday. Many already criticized the format and point out the Dutch Eredivisie, where the playoffs are not being played anymore. RSC Anderlecht won the first championship in this new format, the Belgian Pro League 2009-10, which was their 30th Belgian championship.
Matches are usually played on Saturdays at 20.00. Some match days are played on Wednesdays, however. Furthermore, in recent years, some games are played either on Fridays or during the weekend at different times (e.g. Saturday at 18.00 or Sunday at 13.00 or 20.00), as decided by the owner of television rights. Each team playing the Pro League must have been granted the Belgian professional football license guaranteeing the club has no excessive debts, has a secure stadium, etc. This was introduced in season 2001–02 to decrease the number of teams in the division and ensure a higher level of professionalism in the clubs playing in the top flight of Belgian football. Originally, clubs that could not get the license were supposed not to be replaced (and sent to the third division). However, it is still not effective as, for example, KSK Beveren finished 18th (last) in 2001–2002 but were saved as KSC Eendracht Aalst (17th) and RWD Molenbeek (10th) were refused their license.
Following the 2015–16 season, the number of professional teams in Belgium was brought down to 24, which mostly affected the teams playing at the second level of the Belgian football pyramid as the Belgian Second Division was replaced by the Belgian First Division Band the number of teams dropped to 8.
Each of the 16 competitors in the Pro League hosts every other team once in the regular season, for a total of 30 matches between July and March. A win earns three points and a draw earns one point. Teams are ranked by total points, then by total wins and finally by goal difference, number of scored goals, number of away goals and number of away wins. If teams are still level, a test-match is played in two legs to determine the final order in the standings. A playoff phase is then played from March to May.
The point system in the championship playoff is the same as during the regular season, except that each team starts with half of the points they won in the regular season, rounded up to the nearest integer. The points gained by rounding are deducted in the case of a tie.
The top 6 teams from the regular season enter the championship playoff, with the first-placed team winning the championship of Belgium. Each team plays their opponents twice, and the teams are ranked by points, points from rounding, wins, etc. as in the regular season.
EUROPA LEAGUE PLAYOFF
Until 2016, the teams ranked 7 to 14 after the regular season enter the playoffs 2, with teams ranked 7th, 9th, 12th and 14th entering the group A and teams ranked 8th, 10th, 11th and 13th entering the group B. In each group, each team plays each of its 3 opponents twice. The winner of each group plays the final game in two legs, to determine the winner of the playoffs 2. The winner of the playoffs 2 then plays a home and away game against either the fourth-placed or fifth-placed team from the playoffs 1 for the final Europa League ticket, with the opponent depending on the fact if the Belgian Cup winner ended in the top four of the playoff 1 or not.
From 2016, the system was changed as now the teams ranked 7 to 15 are joined by three teams from the Belgian First Division B and divided into two groups of six teams. The winners of both groups now play a single match to determine the overall playoff winner, with the winner playing the fifth-placed team from playoff 1 in a single match for the final Europa League ticket.
Until 2015 a relegation playoff was played between the teams ranked 15th and 16th after the regular season. It consisted of 5 games between the 2 teams. The 15th-placed team started the playoffs with 3 points whereas the 16th-placed team started from zero. The loser of the relegation playoff was relegated to the second division. The winner of that playoff had to enter the Belgian Second Division Final Round with 3 teams from the second division. The winner of this Final Round played in the First Division the season thereafter.
From 2015 the relegation playoff ceased to exist as now the 16th placed team relegates directly, whereas the 15th placed team takes part in the Europa League playoff. The 2015–16 Belgian Pro League was an exception as during that season the 15th placed team did not take part in any playoff, with the season for that team ending after the regular season.
QUALIFICATION FOR EUROPEAN COMPETITIONS
For the 2010–11 season, the Belgian champion and the runner-up qualify for the 3rd UEFA Champions League qualifying round (of 4). The Belgian Cup winner (or the Cup finalist if the Cup winner finished first or second in the league) qualifies for the play-off of the UEFA Europa League. The third-placed team (or the fourth-placed team if the Cup winner finished 3rd in the league) qualifies for the 3rd and last qualifying round and the winner of the game between the play-offs 2 winner and the fourth-placed team (or the fifth-placed team if the Cup winner finished fourth) qualifies for the 2nd qualifying round.
RULES IN FOOTBALL MANAGER
Number of Teams: 16
Dates: 29/07/2018 – 16/03/201
Points for Win: 3
Points for Draw: 1
Number of Matches: 30 games (teams play each other twice)
Match Rules: The squad must have at least 6 players trained by a club in Belgium. Players signed on free transfers can be registered at any time. Players under the age of 21 can be registered at any time. Only players registered for this competition are eligible to play. 7 subs names. Maximum 3 used.
Trialist Rules: No trialists allowed to play in matches.
Squad Registration: Minimum of 8 homegrown players developed in the nation. Minimum of 3 goalkeepers in the squad. Maximum squad size of 25 players. Players can be registered between Friday 6th July 2018 and Thursday 6th September 2018. Players can be registered between Monday 1st January 2019 and Wednesday 31st January 2019. Registered players who pick up long-term injury (at least 180 days out) can be replaced in the squad.
League Sorting Rules: Games Won then Goals Difference then Goals Scored then Games Played Away From Home then Away Goals Scored.
Qualification: Top 6 teams qualify for Championship Group. Team placed 7th-15th qualify for European Places Playoff.
Relegation: Bottom team is relegated to Pro League B.
Continental Qualification: One team qualifies for European Champions Cup Group Stage. One team qualifies for European Champions Cup Best Placed Third Qualifying Phase. One team qualifies for EURO Cup Group Stage. One team qualifies for Euro Cup Third Qualifying Round. One team qualifies for Euro Cup Second Qualifying Round. (Depending on winner of Belgian Cup). Places are allocated by: Top team from Belgian Pro League A Championship Group. 2nd team from Belgian Pro League A Championship Group. 3rd team from Belgian Pro League A Championship Group. 4th team from Belgian Pro League A Championship Group. Winner of Belgium Pro League A European Places Playoff Final.
Disciplinary Rules: Matches have Video Assistant Referees (VAR). 1 match ban after 5 yellow cards. 2 match ban after next 5 yellow cards. 3 match ban for every additional 5 yellow cards. 1 match ban for every red card. The following bans may be added for the specified offences: One Match: Striking another player (minor). Two Matches: Violent Conduct. Striking another player. Five Matches: Striking another player (extreme). Twelve Matches: Striking a match official.
Transfer Window: Sunday 1st July 2018 to Friday 31st August 2018. Saturday 1st September 2018 to Monday 31st December 2018 (Free Transfers Only). Tuesday 1st January 2019 to Thursday 31st January 2019.
Wage Rules: £325 p/w minimum wage for full-time players 16 years old and up.
Loan Rules: Maximum of three domestic-based players allowed on loan in a season. Emergency goalkeepers can be signed at any time during the season.
Stadium Requirements: Minimum Stadium Capacity of 8000. Minimum Stadium Seating Capacity of 5000. Undersoil Heating Required.