Sports economist Trudo Dejonghe: “Bart Verhaeghe is right about Union”

Three consecutive titles. Five-time champion in seven years. Sports economists Wim Lagae and Trudo Dejonghe from KU Leuven are in no doubt. “Because of the Champions League’s fat pots and with a new stadium, blue-black will still run over its rivals.”

Despite the great 1-3 victory and the third title in a row, Club Brugge received a lot of criticism on Sunday. Shortly after winning the championship, Bart Verhaeghe gave a cunning interview in which, among other things, he criticized the competitors’ style of play, stating that ‘you do not become an institution by buying a sports director’ (a reference to Antwerp, ed.) and claimed that Club Brugge was not playing against Union but against Brighton. An emotional decline because many gave the Revelation Union the title? Or is he just right?

Minimum wage

“Bart Verhaeghe has rightly pointed out that large foreign investors, such as the English team Brighton, are using our Belgian tax system to test young talent for a minimum wage on a satellite team like Union,” says sports economist Trudo Dejonghe bluntly.

Union er en chaussée d’amour for Brighton

“Brighton is ten times as rich as Verhaeghe, Coucke and Vandenhaute combined. For them, the Brussels team is a playground, on the side of love, and they pay almost no tax. If their young players succeed, the added value will be for Brighton and not for Union, which only pays a cheap rent, well below market value. “

“How many Union players will be in Brussels next season? Five? Union is not alone, almost all teams in 1B, but Cercle is also in foreign hands these days.”


Sports economist Wim Lagae, a colleague of Trudo Dejonghe at KU Leuven, has mixed feelings about Bart Verhaeghe’s statements: “Clubs’ budget and salary costs are higher than Union, which also has third-class players and cast-offs from Genk, among others. fished up. “

Hans Vanaken and Charles De Ketelaere. © BELGA

“Of course, Brighton have players in Union who could never afford it themselves. Union benefits from Brighton’s networking, scouting and transfer expertise, which also closes the financial gaps. But Club is training in its luxurious training complex in Westkapelle, while Union is going to Lier for And in Duden Park in Brussels there is no room for business seats or a VIP area … ”

Club Brugge has become an institution, says Verhaeghe. How do you explain the club’s sporting and financial success?

Trudo Dejonghe: “The sporting and financial success of the club is due to its business model. Since the ‘revolution’, the new management that the club runs commercially, blue-black has taken over the torch from Anderlecht in sporting and financial terms. “

Economically set

the mauves has been in the hands of one family for far too long, now Wouter Vandenhaute has to fill a huge financial gap by selling players. It is forced to hire footballers like Zirkzee and Kouamé and they cannot be resold with added value. It will take a long time before Anderlecht can join Club Brugge again. “

Wim Lagae: “The club’s financial leadership in sports is reflected in a number of indicators. Budget size and growth, operating profit…. Blauw-Zwart has an annual budget of 100 million euros, the other teams in the Belgian G6 have almost 40 to 60 million euros. “

Today, the Club is as much an entertainment and media company as it is a football team

“It is just as important that the ownership of Club Vlaams is rooted. You do not have a foreign investor who suddenly unpacks with capital increases or disappears. There is a well-oiled machine behind the Club, which has invested heavily in the infrastructure. Just think of the training camp in Westkapelle, the youth work through Club NXT and even the expansion of the medical team. The fewer injury days for the players, the less capital loss. ”

“Today, the Club is as much an entertainment and media company as it is a football team with well-trained marketers. Commercial and sporting results often do not always go hand in hand. ”


Trudo Dejonghe: “It used to be different. Previously, almost no one from their own youth went on to the first team. Ten years ago, the Club tried the Scandinavian line without success, but it has only started running smoothly since it attracted South American footballers such as Bacca and Izquierdo. “

“Now promising young foreign players like Skov Olsen will come to the Club. They see the Bruges team as a stop to a major European competition. They can get stronger in the tough Belgian competition and also get a taste of the Champions League in Club. “


“That they can get a pandoering that is of minor importance. All of Europe sees them playing on that forum. In that sense, the Club occupies one unique sales position in our country. Nor should you underestimate the role of CEO Vincent Mannaert. Before joining the Club, he set up a decent structure at Zulte Waregem. When he started there, there was no consequence there. Not even computers, I was told. ”

Wim Lagae: “The club’s system pays off, look at the revenue from the player’s resale. In 2020, the Club realized 49 million euros in capital gains on transfers. And this summer, the sale of Noa Lang and perhaps also Charles De Ketelaere will provide many tens of thousands of millions of euros. ”

Trudo Dejonghe.  (photo gf)
Trudo Dejonghe. (photo gf)

Trudo Dejonghe: “The club must make sure that it does not function as an intermediate station for too long. Foreign players should be able to be resold with added value to major European teams within two to three years. Otherwise, they start mumbling. They arrive as rough diamonds and are polished in Bruges. ”

“Noa Lang is going away this summer, I doubt Charles De Ketelaere. He could mature another year in Bruges. But if his entourage sees the euro signs, he will probably leave anyway. Club simply created that business model. Or copied from abroad? Or from Ghent? Many years ago, Ivan De Witte and Michel Louwagie introduced a similar system, but mainly with footballers from the former Yugoslavia. “

How high would you rate three league titles in a row?

Wim Lagae:The winner Takes It All† Participation in the Champions League brings in at least 30 million euros. If you get it three years in a row, you’re flying away from the competition. Assuming you invest the extra income well in infrastructure instead of making impulse purchases with it. For the champion, the share in Belgian media rights will also increase, giving the Club 9 million euros last season. 100 million euros in TV rights must be distributed to 24 teams, the champion is entitled to the largest percentage. “

Wim Lagae.  (photo gf)
Wim Lagae. (photo gf)

Trudo Dejonghe: “The strength of clubs is also reflected in the weakness of Belgian competitors. The club also benefits from the decline of Anderlecht and Standards. And Bart Verhaeghe does not make the same mistakes as Paul Gheysens, the chairman of Antwerp, who pays blue to expensive, older players with no added value. †

“Blue and black used to have the same wrong principles, with the transfers of Carl Hoefkens, Peter Van der Heyden and even Wesley Sonck. They had passed their climax when they arrived at the Club. Is it any wonder that the Club was much less dominant in the period? and never even played champions with the players?


Wim Lagae: “Obviously, if you’ve been the strongest financially for years, you have more options. But football still depends in part on chance. A red card or a missed penalty can determine the title or participation in the next round of a European Cup. “

Anderlecht is struggling through a serious financial crisis. Antwerp is a sleeping giant, but it is growing. Gent and Genk show light green accounting figures. The club suffered the least damage in the two corona years, when many teams’ income disappeared. Thanks to its good management and financial reserves, Blauw-Zwart was able to bridge this period without redundancies. “

Finally: How important is a new stadium for the further expansion of Club Brugge?

Trudo Dejonghe: “A new football temple is the cobweb for further growth. The current Jan Breydel Stadium is an embarrassment for a top club. as a follower withers you during the rest. It’s a drama to have a beer! “

Wim Lagae: “A stadium with 40,000 seats, more catering facilities and more space for business seats is the lever for more revenue on a match day. Now they are almost 18 million euros, which is only 15 percent on a budget of 120 million euros. If you add the money from sponsorship, it corresponds to a quarter of the income. “

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