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Belgian First Division
Jupiler League.jpg
Countries Belgium Belgium
Confederation UEFA
Founded 1895
Number of teams 16
Relegation to Belgian Second Division
Levels on pyramid 1
Domestic cup(s) Belgian Cup
International cup(s) Champions League
Europa League
Current champions Standard Liège (2008–09)
Most championships R.S.C. Anderlecht (29 titles)
Soccerball current event.svg 2009–10 Belgian First Division

The Belgian First Division is the top competition in Belgian football, operated by the Belgian Football Association. It was created by the Belgian Football Association in 1895. Anderlecht is the most successful league club with 29 titles, followed by Club Brugge (13), Union (11) and Standard Liège (10). It is sponsored by AB InBev, the brewers of the Jupiler beer, and is therefore officially known as Jupiler Pro League.

The competition is currently ranked 14th in the UEFA rankings of leagues based on performances in European competitions over the last five-years.



The first league in Belgian football was held in 1895-1896 with 7 teams. Those teams were Antwerp FC, FC Brugeois, FC Liégeois (the first Champion), RC de Bruxelles, Léopold Club de Bruxelles, SC de Bruxelles and Union d'Ixelles. There was no relegation/promotion system at the time but the last two clubs of the league (namely Brugge and Union d'Ixelles) were withdrawn and a new club entered the competition (Athletic & Running Club de Bruxelles). The early championships were dominated by FC Liégeois and RC de Bruxelles, who shared the first 8 titles. From the season 1898-99 on, there were two leagues at the top level. In 1900-01, the two leagues were reunited in one of 9 clubs. However, the next year, the first division was split again, with now a playoff with 4 teams to decide the champion instead of a final game.

In the 1900s, the dominant teams were Liège(who won its first 6 titles in that decade), R.C. de Bruxelles and the new Beerschot AC but this latter club was soon replaced by F.C. Brugeois as a top club. For the season 1904-05, the two top leagues merged and the championship was then played between 11 teams (but it was unfinished). One year later, the promotion/relegation system was created with the second division and only 10 teams played first division until 1908, when two more clubs were admitted. The number of teams grew in 1921 (14 teams), 1942 (16 teams), 1945 (19 teams), then decreased to 16 clubs two years later. Again, in 1974-75 the number of teams increased to 20 teams then decreased to 19 the next season and to 18 in 1976-77.

As World War I approached, Daring Club de Bruxelles confirmed its status of challenger, even winning the title in 1912 and 1914. From 1921 to 1932, the decade was dominated by the Antwerp football: the Beerschot AC of Raymond Braine won its first 5 titles, Antwerp FC its first 2 and the small club of Liersche SK (with Bernard Voorhoof) won its first one in 1932. The challengers at the time were CS Brugeois (two more titles in that period of time), Union Saint-Gilloise (one more), RC de Bruxelles, Daring Club de Bruxelles and afterwards Standard Club Liégeois. Starting December 25, 1932, Union Saint-Gilloise did not lose its next 60 championship games and it thus won the titles in 1933, 1934 and 1935. The record still holds and will probably never be beat. The rival of Union was then Daring Club and it managed to win the next two championships. Following the come-back of Raymond Braine to Beerschot, the club from Antwerp won the last two titles before World War II.

On May 10, 1940 German troops invaded Belgium and thus the seasons 1939-40 and 1940-41 were suspended. The competition started again in September 1941 and Liersche SK won its second title. The next season, the club lost three key players (two of them were bombed and the other one died to a heavy injury on the pitch) and ended at 3rd place while the neighbour team of KV Mechelen became the Champion. In 1947, RSC Anderlechtois won its first championship with Jef Mermans as the key striker and it dominated the Belgian football over the next ten years with 7 titles. In the late 1950s Standard lifted the trophy for the first time and it fought with Anderlecht each year to conquer the league until 1972 after what Club Brugge had a good decade. Between 1960 and 1972, Anderlecht won seven league title, and Standard five.

Competition format and naming



Each of the 18 competitors in the Jupiler Pro League plays each of its 17 opponents twice, once at their home stadium and once at that of their opponents. The championship thus comprises 34 matchdays of 9 matches each, generally played between August and May. A win earns three points since the 1995-96 season and a draw earns one point (no points are awarded for a loss). Teams are ranked by total points, then by total wins. If teams have the same amount of points and wins, a test-match can be played in two legs to determine the final order in the standings (it is actually played only when teams are involved in relegation, title or European fight).

The Belgian League is currently changing from an 18-team league to a 16-team league. In the 2008-09 season, the bottom two teams will relegate, while the numbers 15 and 16 play in a playoff against two teams from the second division. Only one of these 4 remains in the first division together with the second division champion[1][2].

Matches are usually played on Saturday at 20.00. Some matchdays are played on Wednesday, however. Furthermore, in recent years, some games are played either on Friday 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 Jupiler 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, K.S.K. Beveren finished 18th in 2001-2002 but were saved as K.S.C. Eendracht Aalst (17th) and R.W.D. Molenbeek (10th) were refused their license.

Qualification for European competitions

Currently, the Belgian champion qualifies for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League, while the runner-up must play in the third preliminary round. The third-placed team qualifies for the last preliminary round of the UEFA Cup. If the cup winner is one of the three top championship clubs, the loser of the cup enters UEFA Cup. If the Cup finalist has already qualified, the fourth-placed team of the championship would replace it. From the 2008-09 season however, both the European cups and the Belgian league will be reformed and it is yet not completely clear how the Belgian league will distribute the European tickets, except that there will be playoffs involved in some manner[2].


  • 1895-1904: Coupe de Championnat (English: Championship Cup)
  • 1904-1926: Division I
  • 1926-1952 : Division d'Honneur (English: Premier Division)
  • 1952-1993: Division I
  • 1993-2008: Jupiler League
  • 2008-present: Jupiler Pro League

New Format

Starting next season (2009-2010) the format of the Jupiler Pro League will be drastically changed. The league will be trimmed down from 18 to 16 teams and next season will see the introduction of Christmas time football and play-offs after the regular season. The new format has already been criticized heavily by many, mainly smaller, teams.

To incorporate the new format, after the current season the numbers 15 and 16, respectively FC Dender and K.S.V. Roeselare have to play the playoffs with Lierse SK and Antwerp FC to decide which team wil get the last first division ticket for next season. RAEC Mons (18th this season) and AFC Tubize (17th this season) relegate to second division and STVV will promote to the Jupiler Pro League.

At the end of the regular season, the numbers 1 to 6 will play the playoffs for the championship, in which they start with half of the points they reached during the regular season. Numbers 7 to 14 will play playoffs to decide which team can play against the number three of the championship playoffs for the last European ticket. Number 15 and 16 will relegate to second division.

If this format will survive has still to be seen. Many already criticized the format and point out the Dutch Eredivisie where the playoffs are not being played anymore.

Media coverage

The Belgian Football Association sells the television rights for the Belgian First Division every three years. In May 2008, the rights were sold to Belgacom TV in association with public sector TV channels RTBF and VRT, for an amount of €45.7 million per season.[3] RTBF and VRT thus received the rights to show summaries of first division games, as well as rights to a weekly magazine on the competition. Belgacom TV received the rights to show each game in the competition.

In 2005, the newly created Belgian TV channel Belgacom TV already made the best offer and bought the TV rights for a record amount of €36 million per season.


A total of 75 clubs have played in the first division since its creation in 1895. Among those 75 clubs, 36 still exist and the 39 other clubs either went into liquidation or merged with another club.

Members for 2009-10

For this season, the 16 participating clubs are the following:

Club name City Last
First season of
current spell in
top division
Result 07/08 Result 06/07 Result 05/06 Result 04/05 Result 03/04
Anderlecht Brussels 2nd 1935-36 2nd 1st 1st 2nd 1st
Cercle Brugge Bruges 9th 2003-04 4th 12th 14th 11th 14th
R. Charleroi S.C. Charleroi 12th 1985-86 8th 5th 11th 5th 15th
Club Brugge Bruges 3rd 1959-60 3rd 6th 3rd 1st 2nd
Racing Genk Genk 8th 1996-97 10th 2nd 5th 3rd 4th
AA Gent Ghent 4th 1989-90 6th 4th 4th 6th 9th
Germinal Beerschot Antwerp 13th 1989-90 5th 7th 6th 9th 7th
K.V. Kortrijk Kortrijk 14th 2008-09 1st (D2) 3rd (D2) 5th (D2) 7th (D2) 2nd (D3)
KSC Lokeren Lokeren 7th 1996-97 12th 16th 8th 8th 10th
KV Mechelen Mechelen 10th 2007-08 13th 2nd (D2) 13th (D2) 1st (D3) 7th (D3)
Excelsior Mouscron Mouscron 11th 1996-97 11th 10th 13th 13th 5th
KSV Roeselare Roeselare 16th 2005-06 14th 11th 12th 2nd (D2) 3rd (D2)
Sint-Truidense Sint-Truiden 1st (D2) 2009-10 17th 15th 15th 14th 13th
Standard Liège Liège 1st 1921-22 1st 3rd 2nd 3rd 3rd
KVC Westerlo Westerlo 6th 1997-98 9th 8th 9th 12th 6th
Zulte-Waregem Waregem 5th 2005-06 7th 14th 7th 1st (D2) 5th (D2)


Players in the Belgian First Division can be of any nationality and a club can sign as much foreign players as desired. The first club to start a game with 11 foreign players was KSC Lokeren in 2001.

Every year, players are elected for Belgian Golden Shoe awards, the highest awards a player can receive in Belgian competitions, but also for Belgian professional football awards. Players with African descent, origin or nationality can claim a Belgian Ebony Shoe award.

Players compete also every season for the Belgian First Division top scorer, since the 1945-46 season.

Top scorers

All-time top scorers in the Belgian First Division
Rank Player Goals
1 Belgium Bert De Cleyn 350
2 Belgium Joseph Mermans 339
3 Belgium Bernard Voorhoof 281
4 Belgium Arthur Ceuleers 280
5 Belgium Rik Coppens 258
6 Belgium Erwin Vandenbergh 252
7 Belgium Paul Van Himst 237
8 Belgium Raymond Braine 192
As of 16 July 2000[4]

Erwin Vandenbergh is the only player to have claimed the top scorer title 4 consecutive times, between 1979-80 and 1982-83 (the first three times while at Lierse SK and the last time while at RSC Anderlecht). He is also the player to have claimed the most Belgian First Division top scorer titles in his career (6 times with 3 different clubs: 3 times with Lierse SK, twice with RSC Anderlecht and once with KAA Gent). Victor Wegria and Josip Weber won the title 3 consecutive times (resp. between 1958-59 and 1960-61 while at RFC Liégeois and between 1991-92 and 1993-94 while at Cercle Brugge KSV). Wegria eventually finished top scorer a 4th time in 1962-63 still with RFC Liégeois, making him the second player with the most top scorer titles in the history of Belgian First Division top scorers.

The introduction of this title of honour in 1945 was maybe a little too late for first winner Bert De Cleyn as this player has scored the most goals in the history of the Belgian First Division since 1895 (350 goals in 395 games between 1932 and 1954 with KV Mechelen), though he won the top scorer title only once. Other players in the top ten of the all-time top scorer ranking in the Belgian First Division include Joseph Mermans (3 times top scorer, 339 goals overall in 382 games with RSC Anderlecht), Bernard Voorhoof (Belgium national football team top scorer, 281 goals in 473 matches with Lierse SK), Rik Coppens (3 times top scorer), Erwin Vandenbergh and Paul Van Himst (Belgium top scorer with Bernard Voorhoof, 3 times top scorer).

The first foreign player to claim the title was Dutchman Jan Mulder in 1966-67 with RSC Anderlecht. Since then, 24 foreign players have finished top scorer. Only two foreign players claimed the trophy more than once: Josip Weber (twice as a Croat and once as a Belgian) and Austrian Alfred Riedl.

See also


External links

Simple English

Belgian First Division
Country Belgium
Confederation UEFA
Founded 1895
Level 1
Number of teams 16
Relegation to Second Division
Current champions Standard Liège (2008/09)
Most successful club Anderlecht (29)

Belgian First Division is a football league which is top division in Belgium.

Club 2009/10

  • Standard Liège
  • Anderlecht
  • Brugge
  • Gent
  • Zulte Waregem
  • Westerlo
  • Lokeren Oost-Vlaanderen
  • Genk
  • Cercle Brugge
  • Mechelen
  • Mouscron
  • Charleroi
  • Germinal Beerschot
  • Kortrijk
  • Roeselare
  • Sint-Truidense


SeasonChampionsRunner-upThird place
2000/01AnderlechtBruggeStandard Liège
2002/03BruggeAnderlechtLokeren Sint-Niklaas Waasland
2003/04AnderlechtBruggeStandard Liège
2005/06AnderlechtStandard LiègeBrugge
2006/07AnderlechtGenkStandard Liège
2007/08Standard LiègeAnderlechtBrugge
2008/09Standard LiègeAnderlechtBrugge

Former champions

  • 1895/96 : Liégeois
  • 1896/97 : Bruxelles
  • 1897/98 : Liégeois
  • 1898/99 : Liégeois
  • 1899/00 : Bruxelles
  • 1900/01 : Bruxelles
  • 1901/02 : Bruxelles
  • 1902/03 : Bruxelles
  • 1903/04 : Union Saint-Gilloise
  • 1904/05 : Union Saint-Gilloise
  • 1905/06 : Union Saint-Gilloise
  • 1906/07 : Union Saint-Gilloise
  • 1907/08 : Bruxelles
  • 1908/09 : Union Saint-Gilloise
  • 1909/10 : Union Saint-Gilloise
  • 1910/11 : Cercle Brugeois
  • 1911/12 : Daring Molenbeek
  • 1912/13 : Union Saint-Gilloise
  • 1913/14 : Daring Molenbeek
  • 1919/20 : Brugeois
  • 1920/21 : Daring Molenbeek
  • 1921/22 : Beerschot
  • 1922/23 : Union Saint-Gilloise
  • 1923/24 : Beerschot
  • 1924/25 : Beerschot
  • 1925/26 : Beerschot
  • 1926/27 : Brugeois
  • 1927/28 : Beerschot
  • 1928/29 : Royal Antwerp
  • 1929/30 : Brugeois
  • 1930/31 : Royal Antwerp
  • 1931/32 : Liersche
  • 1932/33 : Union Saint-Gilloise
  • 1933/34 : Union Saint-Gilloise
  • 1934/35 : Union Saint-Gilloise
  • 1935/36 : Daring Molenbeek
  • 1936/37 : Daring Molenbeek
  • 1937/38 : Beerschot
  • 1938/39 : Beerschot
  • 1941/42 : Liersche
  • 1942/43 : Malinois
  • 1943/44 : Royal Antwerp
  • 1945/46 : Malinois
  • 1946/47 : Anderlechtois
  • 1947/48 : Malinois
  • 1948/49 : Anderlechtois
  • 1949/50 : Anderlechtois
  • 1950/51 : Anderlechtois
  • 1951/52 : Liégeois
  • 1952/53 : Liégeois
  • 1953/54 : Anderlechtois
  • 1954/55 : Anderlechtois
  • 1955/56 : Anderlechtois
  • 1956/57 : Royal Antwerp
  • 1957/58 : Standard
  • 1958/59 : Anderlechtois
  • 1959/60 : Lierse
  • 1960/61 : Standard
  • 1961/62 : Anderlechtois
  • 1962/63 : Standard
  • 1963/64 : Anderlechtois
  • 1964/65 : Anderlechtois
  • 1965/66 : Anderlechtois
  • 1966/67 : Anderlechtois
  • 1967/68 : Anderlechtois
  • 1968/69 : Standard
  • 1969/70 : Standard
  • 1970/71 : Standard
  • 1971/72 : Anderlechtois
  • 1972/73 : Brugge
  • 1973/74 : Anderlechtois
  • 1974/75 : Molenbeek
  • 1975/76 : Brugge
  • 1976/77 : Brugge
  • 1977/78 : Brugge
  • 1978/79 : Beveren
  • 1979/80 : Brugge
  • 1980/81 : Anderlechtois
  • 1981/82 : Standard Liège
  • 1982/83 : Standard Liège
  • 1983/84 : Beveren
  • 1984/85 : Anderlechtois
  • 1985/86 : Anderlechtois
  • 1986/87 : Anderlechtois
  • 1987/88 : Brugge
  • 1988/89 : Mechelen
  • 1989/90 : Brugge
  • 1990/91 : Anderlechtois
  • 1991/92 : Brugge
  • 1992/93 : Anderlechtois
  • 1993/94 : Anderlecht
  • 1994/95 : Anderlecht
  • 1995/96 : Brugge
  • 1996/97 : Lierse
  • 1997/98 : Brugge
  • 1998/99 : Genk
  • 1999/00 : Anderlecht


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