By Philippe Gerday
Dn an uninterrupted manner since 2013, Belgium has been living a privileged period with a place won for the Belgian champion in the group stage of the Champions League, accompanied by an attractive bonus (from 8.6 million in 2013, it rose to 15.6 million this season!). In turn, Anderlecht, La Gantoise, FC Bruges and RC Genk took advantage of this “guaranteed income insurance” by dominating the Jupiler Pro League.
Still 9th in the European ranking at the end of the 2020-2021 season, thus securing the ticket for the 2022 Belgian champion, Belgium knew that they were playing big this season in terms of their European coefficient. Staying in the top 10 was going to be complicated starting the season in 12th place.
How is this famous country coefficient calculated? Per season, in the preliminary round, a victory is worth 1 point, a split is worth 0.5 point; from the group stage, a victory is worth 2 points, a split 1 point. Depending on the importance of the competition and the different stages of participation, bonuses are awarded. Thus, being in the C1 pools is worth 4 bonus points, qualifying for the round of 16 is even worth 5 points. Finishing first or 2nd in groups in the Europa League (4 points and 2 points) and in the Conference League (2 points and 1 point) also earns bonuses. From 8th in the Europa League there is a bonus point per lap passed; in the Conference League it’s only from the semi-finals.
The points taken by each club are added together and then divided by the number of clubs registered in the European Cup, regardless of when their journey ended. Concretely, Belgium had 5 clubs engaged on the European scene and all the points taken were divided by 5, regardless of whether Anderlecht was eliminated at the stage of the last preliminary round of the Conference League playoffs. As the ranking is calculated over the last five seasons, the ranking which will be established at the end of the season and which will determine the distribution of European tickets for the 2023-2024 season would see our country lose the benefit of the good 2016-2017 season (12,500 points!) when Genk and Anderlecht reached the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
Before this last day, the results were already dark for Belgium with a thirteenth place. The elimination of Anderlecht had already been a bad blow for the coefficient. That of Antwerp from the 5th day in the Europa League was a second blow. More painful are those of FC Bruges on Tuesday at PSG and Genk this Thursday evening against Rapid Vienna.
Even if the Gantoise won the Conference League, this victorious course would bring back a maximum of 3,200 points at the current coefficient, which does not even allow them to join Scotland 10th… and which still has two qualified clubs! What does this disappearance from the top 10 imply? An 11th or 12th place in the coefficient condemns the Champions League Playoffs, the 3rd round is reserved for countries ranked 13th or 14th, the 2nd preliminary round is the lot of champions of countries ranked between 15th and 17th place. With a current 13th place, the Belgian champion would therefore pass the pools in the 3rd round… unless the winner of the Champions League is also qualified for the pools via his championship, which shifts everything by one place!
The vice-champion would then enter the 2nd preliminary round (League path). As for the winner of the Cup, he could already have to enter the competition from the 3rd preliminary round of the Europa League while the Conference League would start from the 2nd preliminary round for Belgian clubs…
We must still hope that Ghent goes as far as possible. Ukraine, currently 12th, have lost all their clubs but still need to close a gap of 1,200 points. Which is equivalent to a place in the semi-finals by winning all their matches, including the first semi-final…