The Dutch football league consists of two professional leagues and seven levels of amateur football leagues, the highest of which is called Hoofdklasse. While they are largely interconnected by way of relegations and promotions, it is not possible to be relegated to the Hoofdklasse from the second professional league. In order for an amateur club to be promoted to the professional leagues, it has to apply for this after winning the amateur championship.

League Structure

Dutch League structure, a little in-depth explanation.

Since the KNVB (Dutch FA) introduced professional football only in 1954, the league structure before 1954 looks very weird perhaps.

The KNVB was formed in 1889 as NVB (Nederlandse Voetbal Bond), in 1940 the K was added, the Bond was now a royal bond (K stands for Koninklijk, Royal)

Before 1954 the Dutch league structure looked like this:

1e Klasse (highest), seperated in 4 leagues (North, East, South, West)
2e Klasse (dozens of parts, North had 4)
3e Klasse (lowest national tier, again dozens of parts
4e Klasse (regional leagues)

The 4 winners of the 1e Klasse played against each other, the winner of that playoff was crowned Dutch champion.

In 1954, the KNVB decided in favour of professionalism and the leaguestructure was rebuilt:
The teams who played in the (amateur) 1e Klaase could enter IF they could afford the entering fee.
The first season was decided by a playoff since there where still 4 topleagues, in 1955 the league structure was revamped to this:

Hoofdklasse A & B (highest pro) Winners played a final to decide who’d be national champion.
2e Klasse A and B (lowest pro)
Hoofdklasse (ama)
1e Klasse amateur
2e Klasse amateur

In 1956 the Eredivisie was formed and the league structure then looked like this:

1e Divisie A and B
Hoofdklasse (ama)
1e Klasse (ama)
2e Klasse (ama)
3e Klasse (ama)
Regional klasse (ama)

In 1963 the KNVB again changed the structure:

1e Divisie
2e Divisie

1e Klasse
2e Klasse
3e Klasse
4e Klasse

In 1969 the amateur leagues were split up into a Saturday and Sunday structure, in 1971 a big clearout in the professional ranks saw the 2e Divisie removed and since then the Dutch league structure has looked like this:

Eerste Divisie (No relegation possible!!!)
Hoofdklasse (ama, No promotion possible)
1e Klasse
2e Klasse
3e Klasse
4e Klasse

In the 1990’s the last change was done when the regional leagues were renamed and the leagues looked like this (Saturday and Sunday amateurs have almost the same structure):

Eerste Divisie

Hoofdklasse (Sat and Sun: A, B, C) nationwide
1e Klasse (Sun: A to F) (Sat: A to E) nationwide
2e Klasse (Sun: A to L) (Sat: A to F, I to L) nationwide
3e Klasse (Sun and Sat: A to D) regional
4e Klasse (Sat and Sun: A to F, sometimes G and H) regional
5e Klasse (Sat North, West I and West II: A to D) (Sun: A to F, sometimes A to K) regional
6e Klasse (Sat: only North, A to F) (Sun: A to C, sometimes G) regional
7e Klasse (veterans, only Saturday, players have to be 35+ yo)

The Netherlands is split up into 6 regions: Noord, Oost, West I, West II, Zuid I, Zuid II.
The A, B etc is based upon a team’s location. So Emmen amateurs would face opponents from 20-30km around town.
A team (lets say Emmen ama) can only move up in their own region, so for Emmen,
starting at the bottom it would look like this:

6e Klasse A
5e Klasse B
4e Klasse H
3e Klasse E
2e Klasse L (here we are now)
1e Klasse F
Hoofdklasse C

Then there is the Dutch Cup, the KNVB beker. There are 3 of them:

The KNVB Beker (for all pro teams and a bunch of amateurs, entering rules will be explained later on)
The KNVB Res. Beker (for all professional reserve teams)
The KNVB Amateur Beker (for all amateursides. It’s again split into 6 regions, the 6 regional winners play each other in a play-off to decide the national KNVB Amateur Cup winner.

Teams who enter the “Professional” beker:

38 pro clubs
Reserve Cup winner
Reserve league winner
Amateur Cup winner, runner up and 3rd placed
All 6 Hoofdklasse winners
Every club who finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th in a Hoofdklasse and didn’t qualify in some way already.

Source: Harwin Weerink

Eerste Divisie

The Eerste Divisie (English: First Division) is the second-highest division of football in the Netherlands. It is linked with the top-level Eredivisie via a promotion/relegation system. It is also known as the Juplier League due to sponsorship, which is the same name as the top league in Belgium. It was most recently known as the Gouden Gids Divisie after a five-year sponsorship deal with the Dutch Yellow Pages.

The Eerste Divisie consists of 20 clubs, who play each other in a double round-robin league, with each club playing the other club home and away. Each club plays each other club once in the first half of the season before the league takes a winter break around the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season. The second half of the season sees the same fixtures as the first half, with the stadiums changed, although the two halves are not played in the same order.

At the end of each season, the champion of the Eerste Divisie is automatically promoted to the Eredivisie. Eight other clubs enter the Nacompetitie, a promotion/relegation playoff that includes the 16th- and 17th-place clubs in the Eredivisie. The following teams qualify for the Nacompetitie:

* The club with the best record in the “first period” of the season (after 8 rounds).
* The club with the best record in the “second period” of the season (rounds 9-16).
* The club with the best record in the “third period” of the season (rounds 17-24).
* The club with the best record in the “fourth period” of the season (rounds 25-32).
* The remaining spots are filled at season’s end by the highest-placed clubs that have not already earned automatic promotion or qualified for the Nacompetitie.

If the club that wins a period has qualified for the Nacompetitie by winning a previous period, its place is filled by the next-best club in that period that has not already qualified. Usually, the clubs that qualify for the Nacompetitie turn out to be the 2nd- through 9th-placed clubs in the final table (before the 2005-06 season, six Eerste Divisie teams were involved).

The Nacompetitie is divided into two groups of five clubs each, with one Eredivisie club and four Eerste Divisie clubs. Each group winner will play in the Eredivisie the next season, while the other four will play in the Eerste Divisie.

Teams are not relegated from the Eerste Divisie, but Hoofdklasse (the main amateur league and the third tier of Dutch football) clubs can be promoted to the Eerste Divisie.


  • ADO Den Haag
  • Agovv Apeldoorn
  • Cambuur Leeuwarden
  • Den Bosch
  • Dordrecht
  • Eindhoven
  • Emmen
  • Excelsior Rotterdam (FM 2006)
  • Fortuna Sittard
  • Go Ahead Eagles
  • De Graafschap
  • Helmond Sport
  • HFC Haarlem
  • MVV Maastricht
  • Omniworld
  • RBC Roosendaal (FM 2007)
  • RKC Waalwijk
  • Stormvogels Telstar
  • TOP Oss
  • Veendam
  • Volendam
  • VVV Venlo
  • Zwolle
The above information is from the 2006-2007 season.