Football stadium project in jeopardy as Anderlecht pulls out

Summary

Brussels football club Anderlecht has withdrawn from a rental deal for the new stadium at Heizel that would be used by the national team

“No long-term vision”

The future of a planned new national football stadium has been thrown into doubt, after Brussels football club Anderlecht pulled out of a deal in which they would rent the stadium, making it available for the matches of the Red Devils national side.

The stadium would replace the existing Koning Boudewijn stadium, which is due to be demolished by 2020. The new stadium has been fraught with controversy since its inception for several reasons, including taxpayer money being used for infrastructure despite a promise to the contrary and the lack of an athletics track, which would make the Memorial Van Damme athletics meeting impossible.

The building itself would be paid for by the Belgian Football Association, which would recoup its investment by renting the ground to Anderlecht for a reported €9-€11 million a year. Anderlecht would leave their current home in the Constant Vander Stock stadium in the Brussels commune.

The ground would also be available for the national side in the dozen or so matches they play at home every year. The stadium would be ready in time to host several European Championship matches in 2020.

However, Anderlecht have now chosen not to move. “The board of directors have thoroughly evaluated all elements of the case and decided that the current project is no longer to be reconciled with its long-term vision for the further development of the club,” Anderlecht said in a statement.

“In light of our candidacy as host city for Euro 2020, this is bad news,” football association chair François De Keersmaecker said. “We hope all parties will accept their responsibility in this matter to come to a solution.”

According to Alain Courtois, alderman for sport in Brussels-City, which is the main backer of the project, the stadium will go ahead “come what may”. Meanwhile, Brussels-City mayor Yvan Mayeur issued a joint statement with regional minister-president Rudi Vervoort and finance minister Guy Vanhengel.

“We will, as we have done until now, carry on with discussions that should lead to the construction of a large new stadium where the opening match of Euro 2020 can take place, and that can become the new home of Royal Sporting Club Anderlecht,” the statement says. The renovation of the Koning Boudewijn stadium, supported by opposition N-VA and Groen, is not an option, they said.

Photo courtesy Jaspers-Eyers Architects

Flemish football

Reaping the benefits of their improved youth academies, Flemish football clubs have become reasonably successful in European competitions in recent years and many players routinely join leading European clubs.
Players - Famous players from Brussels and Flanders include Vincent Kompany, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Thomas Vermaelen.
Clubs - Some of the best-known local clubs include KV Mechelen, Zulte Waregem, AA Ghent and Club Brugge.
Anderlecht - The Brussels-based RSC Anderlecht is the only Belgian club in the 2013-2014 Uefa Champions League.
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football first appears in Flanders

12

Flemish clubs in top national division

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million euros in subsidies from the Flemish government to renovate football stadiums in 2013