Dutch Football League (Eredivisie)

Published: 08/10/2013

The top tier of professional football leagues in the Netherlands is known as the Eredivisie or “Honorary Division.” It is comprised of 18 clubs, each of which faces every other club twice during the season, once at home and once away, for a total of 34 games played between August and May. At the end of the season, the winner of the Eredivisie claims the Dutch national championship, while the bottom club is automatically relegated to the second level of the Dutch league system, the Eerste Divisie (First Division) or so-called “Jupiler League,” and replaced by that division’s champion. Playoffs determine what other teams are relegated or promoted, if any. At the conclusion of the 2012–13 season, the Eredivisie ranked ninth best among all leagues in Europe according to the UEFA.

A Royal Connection

The governing organisation responsible for football in the Netherlands is the Royal Dutch National Football Association (Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbalbond), better known as the KNVB. It was established in 1889 under the reign of King William III (1817-90). Among the KNVB’s first actions was to stage the Netherlands Football League Championship, which had “unofficial” status from 1889 through 1898. The winner of the first edition was VV Concordia from Rotterdam, although records show that the first “official” competition was won by RAP Amsterdam over HVV Den Haag in May 1899. The prize awarded was known as the KNVB Beker (aka KNVB Cup or Dutch Cup).

The KNVB has the distinction of being one of the founding members of FIFA, which was created in 1904. The Royal association was charged with overseeing not only all of the main Dutch football leagues (now Eredivisie, Eerste Divisie and Topklasse) and the amateur leagues but also the Dutch national football team.

In 1946, the award presented to the winners of the KNVB Cup was upgraded to a silver trophy. However, Dutch football at that time was still an amateur competition, with the national champion determined by means of a competition between the champions of the different head classes, which were divided regionally until 1950. It was not until 1954 that professional football was introduced, and two years later, the Eredivisie was created for the 1956-57 season. Thereafter, the winner of the Eredivisie would be recognized as the national champion, beginning with AFC Ajax of Amsterdam.

Since then, AFC Ajax have won the most titles with 24. Ranking behind them are PSV Eindhoven with 18 titles in the professional era and Feyenoord of Rotterdam with nine. In fact, since 1965 these three clubs have won all but three titles. In 1981 and 2009, AZ representing Alkmaar and Zaanstreek succeeded in winning the league, and in 2010 the title went to FC Twente from the city of Enschede.

No Lack of Competition

Since 1990, the Eredivisie has had a number of sponsors, from PTT Telecom to Holland Casino and the Sponsorloterij national lottery. In 2012, a 12-year sponsorship agreement was signed with the American-based Australian tycoon Rupert Murdoch worth €1 billion. Starting with the 2013-14 season, each Eredivisie club should receive over €4 million per year for the duration of the contract.

Despite being dominated by three teams for so long, the level of competition in the Eredivisie is extremely high. The league champion receives immediate qualification to the UEFA Champions League whilst the second place club starts their Champions League campaign at the third qualification round. The third-ranked club gets immediate entry to the Europa League competition, alongside fourth place club flowing in during the third qualification round. Also, positions #5 to #8 can fight over the one remaining Europa League qualification ticket.

Heading into the 2013-14 season, Ajax are again the defending champions. They will be chased by newly promoted Cambuur based in Leeuwarden and the Go Ahead Eagles of Deventer. The other 15 returning Eredivisie competitors are ADO Den Haag, AZ, Feyenoord, Groningen, Heerenveen, Heracles, NAC, NEC, Zwolle, PSV, RKC Waalwijk, Roda JC, Twente, Utrecht and Vitesse.

Published on: 08/10/2013

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