Ajax’s drop out of the Europa League in March spelled another disappointing season for Dutch teams in Europe. Although this season’s failure is nothing new to Eredivisie participants, and the longer the current lack of success in Europe goes on, the worse the implications for Dutch football.

  • By Michael Statham
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aja exitRecent seasons

Success in European competition has been fairly limited in the last few years. The best run put together by a Dutch team in Europe in that period was AZ last season, who were comfortably defeated by Benfica in the quarter final stage of the Europa League.

No Dutch outfit has made it past the group stage of the Champions League since PSV progressed in 2006-07. They made it to the quarter finals before being knocked out by Liverpool. The last Dutch winner of a major European competition was Feyenoord when they lifted the UEFA Cup 13 years ago.

This season saw Groningen, PEC Zwolle and Twente all exit European competition in the summer qualifiers. The other three clubs Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord all ventured into deeper territory but were overpowered by Dnipro, Zenit and Roma respectively. The second knockout phase of the Europa League was as far as any of the teams reached.

The Coefficient

coeffThe alarming slide in fortunes has made for grim reading for Dutch football fans. The poor performances in Europe particularly in the last few seasons have had an impact on the Dutch’s UEFA coefficient. This coefficient determines the rankings of all the leagues within the continent by using each country’s teams’ performances over the last 5 seasons in Europe and converting wins and draws from these seasons into points. The Netherlands is currently ranked in ninth positon.

The coefficient determines the number of places each country receives in European competition. For example, England currently sit in second place on the list and so has 7 places to give away to its domestic contingent, 4 in the Champions League and 3 in the Europa League. Countries much further down the list have much fewer tickets to hand out to its clubs, with their teams also entering at earlier rounds of European competition. This clearly makes it more difficult for these teams to progress to the lucrative riches of the group stages of the Champions League and Europa League.

The Netherlands in this campaign could allocate 6 of its teams to enter Europe – 2 in the Champions League and 4 in the Europa League. Although as can be seen in the graphic, the very impressive points total from the seasons beginning in 2010 and 2011 are soon to be taken away from their total haul. If the last few seasons’ points totals are repeated, there will soon be a drop in the rankings for the Netherlands, with Belgium, Switzerland, Turkey and Greece all waiting to pounce.

What does this mean for the Netherlands?

If the Dutch do fall down to 13th position in the ranking they will lose certain European privileges. They will lose their automatic qualification for one team to the group stages of the Champions League and other clubs will face further rounds of qualifying to reach the Europa League group stage.

What’s more, if they fall out of the top 15, only one Dutch side will be able to compete in the early rounds of Champions League qualifying and a small party of other sides will compete in mid-summer qualifying for the Europa League.

Ultimately, poor European performances will cost the league money. The top sides in the Netherlands would lose even more money from not competing as much in Europe and make the Eredivisie look a lot less attractive for broadcasters. Thus with less money comes less quality in the league that has already lost a lot since the days of Ajax’s Champions League triumph in 1995.

Is there hope?

0001 aja win

It’s not all doom and gloom for Dutch football fans. The Eredivisie still has a lot of quality and the youth systems for many Dutch clubs are excellent, most notably the ones of Ajax and Feyenoord. Stars will always be raised in the Netherlands and play for the top sides. The national team went on to finish third in the last World Cup with a squad full of players that all once played in the Eredivisie, with a good number of players who still do.

The league has always been known to be a place where stars are brought up and then sold on for hefty fees to bigger clubs in bigger leagues. However in recent history Dutch sides have suffered from their players leaving at a younger age to before, meaning younger, quality players are abandoning their domestic teams well before they reach their peak ability.

Dutch clubs also cannot simply reinvest the money they receive into buying more players either. They don’t have enough money to splash many millions on several players. Instead they prefer to inject more money into their youth development which is what makes them so successful. Presently Twente are counting the cost of splashing the cash, they will face massive cut backs in terms of money for playing staff this summer. Their problems stem from an overspend on transfers in previous years with very little in the way of money coming in from domestic or continental success. Steve McLaren had a big part to play in their total of £50 million that Twente spent between 2008 and 2012.

That’s not to say that Dutch teams are not still ambitious. PSV’s sporting director Marcel Brands wants to make the current league leaders regulars in the last 16 of the Champions League within the coming years. Ajax manager Frank De Boer has also stated his intentions to take Ajax further in the Champions League, he said he wanted to hold on to his best young players such as Joël Veltman and Davy Klaassen for as long as possible in order to help keep the team together into their best years.

Meanwhile the division is currently in its second year of a 12 year financial injection from Rupert Murdoch to broadcast the Eredivisie within the Netherlands. Money also comes in from elsewhere around the world to earn the right to show Dutch top-flight football, including Sky Sports in the UK which has begun showing matches from this current season.

All in all, whilst at the moment Dutch football isn’t as strong as previous years, the impact of Dutch sides in Europe should improve. More money and increasing ambition from clubs to hang on to star players from their academies will definitely bring Dutch football more successful stories in European competition in the years to come.

Michael Statham (807 Posts)

Writer/interviewer/YouTuber for Football-Oranje. Massive Dutch football fan from the UK. Follow me @EredivisieMike & subscribe to Football-Oranje on YouTube.