Bart Verhaeghe, President of FC Bruges Belgian football is not the ugly duckling
The businessman Bart Verhaeghe, owner of FC Bruges, who receives PSG on Tuesday in the Champions League, defends the integrity of Belgian football and sees its rebirth.
Sharing Share on Facebook Share on Facebook Send by e-mail Send by e-mail Share on Messenger Share on Messenger Share on Whatsapp Share on Whatsapp More options More options More options Twitter Linkedin Copy link Bart Verhaeghe (at left), owner of FC Bruges and coach Ivan Leko, on May 21, 2018, at the time of the coronation of the club in the Belgian championship. Kurt Desplenter / AFP
From Knokke, we knew the casino and the beach, not the Club Brugge training center, opened in June in the middle of nothing. A quarter of an hour from the jewel of Gothic architecture, the Blauw en Zwart have invested 20 million euros to outrun rival Anderlecht. And the ancient Jan-Breydel stadium, where Bruges hosts Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Tuesday evening, will soon be a memory. This is the wish of its owner, Bart Verhaeghe, whose Belgian football mocks the ego and fears anger. Since 2011, it has given a boost to the Bruges project, whose budget this season reaches 120million euros, more than the Marseille Olympics.
For the first time in fourteen years, two Belgian clubs, Genk and you, are participating in the Champions League. Do you believe in a lasting renewal of Belgian clubs?
Our desire is to become the first country behind the five major championships, Belgium is eighth in the UEFA index. Belgian football is waking up and has entered modernity. Working with big data reduces the risks inherent in the sport with tools that football did not use.
We are a small country with small budgets. To excel in this world, we must be more economical and efficient with our money, and attract enthusiasts to our clubs. We mainly looked at what was done elsewhere than in football. Our recruitment procedures focus as much on the human and the players' projects as on their faculties. And player detection relies on a database of 100,000 players.
We are creating a league with the Netherlands which can reduce our gap with the big five, which will open a market of 28 million consumers. A new meeting is planned this week. The championship should include eighteen clubs, including eight Belgian. It can go fast. If not for next season, probably in the next two.
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Belgium is not the ugly duckling, it is worse elsewhere. What I find strange is that I pay, when the players should do it! But the European Union, together with UEFA and FIFA must make all of this clear, open and transparent. Because it is a global problem. Bruges is already doing this, by asking agents and players to sign a document. We have an ethics committee and a compliance officer. And personally, I don't interfere in transfers.Never! It is a practice that I did not know. We are so professional that no one has ever dared. I was very surprised that it exists.
We can do better. We should already have a clearing house. I am waiting for the Pro League to create it as quickly as possible even if it is FIFA that should take care of it.
Of course there are. Who was sentenced? Nobody. If I do the opposite, I am not fair. I am a lawyer. With us, there are so many procedures, distribution of responsibilities that the possibility of abuse is infinitesimal. Several people are involved in each transfer.
If this is done in an open and transparent manner, I don't see this as a problem. The key is that everyone can know what is being done, including through the publication of club license data, whether national or European.
Transparency was not there when in 2014 you acquired 50% of the rights of your player Thomas Meunier before reselling them in Bruges nine months later 550,000 euros more expensive, as revealed by the Football Leaks there a year ago.
At the time, the club had no money and could not immediately pay the amount requested by its agent. I made my holding company pay and the added value represented the work of this company as well as the risk taking. Even the tax rules prevented me from reselling at the same price! I already had 100% of the shares in Bruges: in the end, these are two companies that belong to me. I just helped my club.
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