BELGRADE, May 6 (Reuters) - Serbia’s first and second divisions will resume on May 30 without spectators in a changed format, while the lower leagues will not carry on this season, the Balkan nation’s football association (FSS) said on Wednesday.
The decision means the top two tiers comprising 16 clubs each will play another four rounds of matches to complete the regular season, while championship and relegation playoffs requiring an additional seven rounds have been scrapped.
The FSS said the decisions were made on the basis of a vote by clubs in both divisions, overwhelmingly in favour of cutting the season short to make room for a summer break after the coronavirus pandemic threw the calendar into chaos.
“Eleven clubs in the top division voted in favour of trimming the season and five against, including champions Red Star Belgrade and city rivals Partizan,” the FSS said.
“Only three clubs in the second tier voted in favour of playing the full 11 rounds.
“The Serbian Cup will resume as scheduled, with the quarter-final matched on June 3 to be followed by the semis on June 10 and the final on June 24.”
Red Star top the first division on 69 points from 26 games, 11 more than Partizan whose coach Savo Milosevic said last week that players needed at least four weeks of training to regain match fitness.
The altered format will allow clubs to have a proper close season break and avoid being rushed into the 2020-21 campaign after the pandemic brought competition to a halt early in March.
Serbia, whose government is later on Wednesday expected to lift a nationwide state of emergency introduced to curb the pandemic, has registered 9,677 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 200 deaths related to the novel virus. (Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ken Ferris)