New foundations for Belgian professional football

© JIMMY BOLCINA

The General meeting of the Pro League approved Football First, the global plan for Belgian football, on Friday afternoon. This means that professional football has opted for a strong vision for the future, with new licence conditions around a sustainable financial policy, with independent directors, more investment in youth, women's football and G-football.

In doing so, we're renewing the foundations of professional football and ensuring we're future-ready.Lorin Parys

Lorin Parys; "The clubs of the Pro League gave their approval today for a strong vision of the future with a renewed competition, a modern management model and the obligation for each of our clubs to take their social responsibility in the field of youth, women's football and G-football. A fully-fledged Second Division will be developed with more chances of promotion. In addition, strict criteria for a financially sustainable policy will be introduced and a training institute will be established to professionalise our sector. In doing so, we're renewing the foundations of professional football and ensuring we're future-ready."

© Xavier Piron

The General meeting of the Pro League approved Football First, the global plan for Belgian football, on Friday afternoon. This means that professional football has opted for a strong vision for the future, with new licence conditions around a sustainable financial policy, with independent directors, more investment in youth, women's football and G-football. The plan also includes a competition format which came about after extensive rounds of talks with the clubs and based on the findings of research bureaus Twenty-First Group and Hypercube. Both the Jupiler Pro League and the new Second Division will have sixteen clubs from the 2023-2024 season. Both competitions will end with stronger play-offs that will raise the level of excitement and quality of the competition.

Competition formula

From the 2023-2024 season, both the Jupiler Pro League and the Second Division will have sixteen clubs. The Jupiler Pro League will be played in a regular competition of thirty match days, followed by play-offs. The Champions' Play-off will be completed with the six highest ranked teams, who will compete for the title. The Europa Play-off will be played by numbers seven to twelve, with the winner of this play-off taking on the fourth placed team from the Champions Play-off for the last European ticket.  Numbers thirteen to sixteen will play each other to stay in the Jupiler Pro League. The teams ending bottom and second from bottom in these play-offs will be relegated directly to the Second Division. The second-placed team will play the winner of the play-offs in the Second Division in a play-off match. This increases the mobility between the Jupiler Pro League and Second Division. In the Champions and Europa Play-offs, the points amassed during the regular league will be halved before the start. In the play-offs to stay in the league, the points are not halved.

The Second Division will have sixteen teams, including a number of U23 teams. It starts with a regular competition consisting of thirty match days. The two highest ranked teams at the end of the regular season are directly promoted to the Jupiler Pro League. The teams ranked three to six compete in a play-off competition according to a knock-out system. The winner qualifies for a play-off match against the runner-up from the third play-off of the Jupiler Pro League.

Integration of U23 teams

The U23 teams are considered as regular clubs and can therefore be relegated and promoted like any other team, provided they always play one division lower than their parent club. U23 teams cannot promote to the Jupiler Pro League nor participate in the play-offs of the Second Division. If a U23 team finishes in the first six, this team will be replaced by the next traditional club in the general ranking.

The integration of the U23 teams has been approved for a period of two seasons. The integration will be evaluated in March 2023, together with a broader evaluation of the modalities of the global plan.

Our clubs take their social responsibility seriously and will invest 3% of their revenue in youth training, women's football or G-football and community operation.Lorin Parys

Football First goes further than the competitive formula and wants to make Belgian football future-ready. That's why the current licence conditions will be strengthened. The aim is to allow clubs to pursue a healthy financial policy, and on the other hand, to strengthen the qualitative operation of clubs. Clubs will be obliged to have a positive equity and not spend more than 70% of their income on the squad and staff ('Squad Spend Ratio') within a period of five years. The sanctions are a points deduction or, in the case of the Squad Spend Ratio, may also result in a reduction in the number of eligible players for the squad.

Independent directors

Clubs will also have to meet licence conditions in terms of infrastructure and obligations in the field of youth work, corporate governance and community operation. “Our clubs take their social responsibility seriously and will invest 3% of their revenue in youth training, women's football or G-football and community operation. The Pro League is also setting up a training institute in collaboration with the University of Antwerp. The Pro League University will continuously strengthen the management of our clubs,” says Lorin Parys. 

The General meeting also approved the proposals on modern governance included in the global plan. The Board of Directors will be reduced from nine to six directors, two of whom will be independent. Diversity objectives, codes of conduct and agreements on avoiding conflicts of interest will be implemented.

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