FC Utrecht will appeal against the "unacceptable" decision to deny them European football next season after the Eredivisie campaign was ended on Friday due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) decided to bring the 2019/20 season to an immediate conclusion, with no champions, relegation or promotion.

Utrecht were sixth in the table with nine matches to play, but they had a game in hand on fifth-placed Willem II who were three points ahead and received a Europa League qualifying spot from the KNVB along with PSV Eindhoven - subject to UEFA approval.

A place in the Europa League could also have been secured by John van den Brom's Utrecht side if they had beaten Feyenoord in a KNVB cup final that could not be staged amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Feyenoord will go straight into the group stage of the Europa League due to being third in the table.

The KNVB was instructed by UEFA to select which clubs will play in Europe next season on "sporting grounds" and Utrecht do not accept the governing body's decisions.

A club statement said: "FC Utrecht does not hesitate to challenge the decision not to award a [European] ticket to FC Utrecht before the preliminary relief judge and UEFA.

"After written correspondence earlier today, the KNVB announced via a conference call that the European tickets will be allocated to numbers 1 to 5 of the current Eredivisie rankings.

"It is unacceptable for FC Utrecht that the cup competition, which only has one game to play, is completely ignored and does not count in the consideration of which club is entitled to a European ticket on sporting grounds.

"The Europa League group stage ticket will be awarded to Feyenoord without any explanation based on the league table. FC Utrecht is just as entitled to this ticket as fellow cup finalist Feyenoord (and even more entitled because it has won a cup match more than Feyenoord), which is not included in the presentation of the decisions today.

"FC Utrecht is also in sixth position of the Eredivisie at the end of the competition, but the club has played a match less than Willem II.

"In the explanatory notes, the KNVB has not spoken a word about the fact that FC Utrecht has played a match less than Willem II and overtakes the Tilburg team in the rankings if they win. In that case FC Utrecht has the same number of points, but a much better goal difference, more goals scored and a better head-to-head record.

"According to FC Utrecht, the decision to shift the European ticket from the cup to the league is not based on sporting grounds and cannot be justified in any other way. This ticket is the main prize for another competition.

"The highest ticket of the cup competition, which only two clubs are entitled to, cannot therefore simply be shifted according to regulations."

The statement continued: "FC Utrecht is convinced that the club is entitled to a ticket for European football on sporting grounds, because of the place in the cup final and because of the current Eredivisie ranking."

Proposals for a joint league featuring elite clubs from Netherlands and Belgium have reached a second stage.

The concept has been mooted for a number of years but has now moved a step closer, with a select group of teams from Eredivisie and the Belgian First Division being asked to give their views.

Consultancy firm Deloitte was hired to explore the possibility of a combined league, which would be known as 'BeNeLiga'.

The five top clubs from Belgium (Gent, Club Brugge, Genk, Anderlecht and Standard Liege) met the top six from Netherlands (Ajax, AZ, Utrecht, Feyenoord, PSV and Vitesse) earlier this year, and Dutch football governing body KNVB has confirmed talks were successful enough to continue with the exploration.

A statement on KNVB's official website read: "The clubs involved decided in a first phase to conduct a feasibility study into the theoretical added value of a BeNeLiga.

"This study is also facilitated by the national associations (KNVB and KBVB) for the sake of the broader football interest. That research has since been carried out by Deloitte.

"The results of the first phase confirm that the new BeNeLiga has a potential significant value increase."

The next phase of the investigation will look at a possible format and the impact a new joint league will have on Dutch and Belgian teams.

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