|Number of teams||32|
|Levels on pyramid||3|
|Promotion to||Eerste Divisie (optional)|
|Domestic cup(s)||KNVB Cup|
|Most championships||IJsselmeervogels, Achilles '29, Katwijk and Spakenburg (1)|
Topklasse (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈtɔp.ˌklɑ.sə]) (English: Top Class) is the third tier of football in the Netherlands, which had its inaugural season in 2010–11. The league is placed between the Eerste Divisie and the Hoofdklasse, the second and fourth tiers of Dutch football, respectively. The introduction of the Topklasse resulted from discussions between the Royal Dutch Football Association, the Coöperatie Eerste Divisie (the clubs in the Eerste Divisie) and the Centraal Overleg Hoofdklassers (the clubs in the Hoofdklasse).
A national football competition in the Netherlands was established in 1956. Prior to that, the districts of the Dutch football association held their own competitions, and the champions of these competitions faced each other for the national title. The highest national division in the new league structure became the Eredivisie, followed by the Eerste Divisie and the Tweede Divisie. The Tweede Divisie was disbanded in 1971; six clubs were promoted to the Eerste Divisie (champions De Volewijckers along with FC Eindhoven, VVV, Fortuna Vlaardingen, PEC and Roda JC), while the remaining ten clubs became amateur clubs. The Eerste Divisie subsequently became the lowest league in professional football in the Netherlands
The amateur football clubs had a separate league system, the highest league of which was the Eerste Klasse (later: Hoofdklasse). There was no promotion and relegation between professional football and amateur football; a professional football club could only drop to the amateur leagues if its licence for professional football was revoked, while an amateur football club could only be promoted after application and meeting a number of criteria.
The calls for a Topklasse largely stemmed from the professionalization of amateur football clubs in the Netherlands in recent years, in the sense that many Hoofdklasse club players now receive a salary. This has closed the gap between the top of the Hoofdklasse and the bottom of the Eerste Divisie. Chairman of the Dutch football association Henk Kesler had therefore repeatedly called for the creation of the Topklasse to establish promotion and relegation between professional and amateur football, creating a league pyramid akin to the English football league system.
The first plans for a Topklasse were rejected by the Eerste Divisie clubs in 1999.
The new league structure was approved at an amateur clubs meeting on 6 June 2009. The KNVB introduced the new level for the 2010–11 season, comprising 32 clubs. After the 2009–10 season, the bottom 2 teams in the Eerste Divisie, whose size was reduced from 20 to 18 clubs, and the top four clubs from each of the six Hoofdklasse divisions – a total of 26 clubs – automatically joined the new level. These clubs were joined by six playoff winners from a pool of 12 clubs that finished in 5th or 6th place in their group within the Hoofdklasse. The 32 clubs within the Topklasse were divided into two leagues comprising 16 clubs. One league is a "Saturday" league and the other a "Sunday" league. At the end of the season, both clubs that finish at the top of their division play each other. The winner of that tie is promoted to the Eerste Divisie, replacing the team that finishes 18th. If the winner refuses promotion or is ineligible for promotion, the runners-up are promoted. If both teams refuse promotion, no promotion and relegation takes place between the Eerste Divisie and Topklasse.
In January 2010, the exclusion of bankrupt HFC Haarlem from the Eerste Divisie reduced the number of scheduled relegations to one only, and led the federation to announce that this vacancy would be filled by an additional Hoofdklasse club. On May 12, 2010 it was announced that BV Veendam had declared bankruptcy, possibly giving (otherwise relegated) FC Oss a chance to stay in the Eerste Divisie, with the extra slot filled by another Hoofdklasse club. Veendam's bankruptcy was then reversed on appeal, thus confirming FC Oss' relegation into the Topklasse.
Perception among amateur clubs
IJsselmeervogels, one of the most successful amateur football clubs in the Netherlands, was a strong opponent of the plans; chief Arian van de Vuurst has stated that "professional football does not fit in with our culture." Because of these objections, promotion to the Eerste Divisie is not mandatory for the champion of the Topklasse.
|Season||Saturday champions||Sunday champions||Overall champions||Promotion|
|2010–11||IJsselmeervogels||FC Oss||IJsselmeervogels||FC Oss|
|2011–12||Spakenburg||Achilles '29||Achilles '29||None|
|2012–13||Katwijk||Achilles '29||Katwijk||Achilles '29|
- "KNVB will topklasse in amateurvoetbal" (in Dutch). Voetbalprimeur.nl. 2007-06-09. Retrieved 2007-11-15.
- Robert Missèt (2007-06-18). "‘Kesler heeft geen idee wat amateurvoetbal inhoudt’" (in Dutch). de Volkskrant. p. 17. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
- Erik Oudshoorn (1999-06-01). "Clubs eerste divisie dwarsbomen Topklasse" (in Dutch). NRC Handelsblad. p. 11. Retrieved 2007-11-15.
- Topklasse.com - Latest news from and about the Topklasse. (Dutch)
- League321.com - Dutch football league tables, records & statistics database. (English)