In case of victory at the Euro, the Belgian Union expects a profit of 7.5 million euros. However, amateur football remains “the heart” of its activity, according to its CEO, Peter Bossaert.
This Tuesday, despite the imminent approach of the meeting of the year for his company, Peter Bossaert, CEO of the Belgian Union, found an hour to talk about football with an economic newspaper. And even if it means saying more about his federation, we might as well put it in shape. Rather than the now indigestible Teams interview, Peter Bossaert prefers face-to-face meetings at the Devils HQ in Tubize. It will also be the occasion for a small guided tour of the booming center.
We had been warned, we might as well arrive a tad ahead of time. Not for traffic jam issues, but rather for procedure. Before entering the lair of the Red Devils, you must show your (very) white paw. A registration, two steward checks and a succession of barriers to pass. Getting into the heart of top Belgian football cannot be improvised. Arrived at the building, the welcome of Peter Bossaert is warm.
The constraints are not over, however. Lhe center of Tubize is a succession of areas with limited access. To enter, new passage in front of the barrier of a steward. Red areas are prohibited and the photographer is requested to keep his camera warm, while waiting for the areas suitable for the shooting.
In the distance, Youri Tielemans goes to the gym in sandals. Obviously impossible to approach him or his playmates. No superstar whim. Just the fear of a nasty virus still present and which could thwart the ambitions of a European title.
New tubizian setting at 25 million euros
The covid-friendly visit therefore begins a good distance away on the training grounds. The boss goes over a barrier to tread the perfectly trimmed lawn. “I am here in the municipality of Hal. Where you are, it is Tubize. It is difficult to do more Belgian in terms of location”, he smiles.
Behind him, the vacant lot will soon be transformed into three new lots. “We will have ten in all. We will also redo the grandstand on the main training ground. It will be able to accommodate 2,000 people, which will allow us to organize the U19 and U21 matches here.” A new building is also taking shape. It will soon host all Belgian football, ie 180 workers. “The move is scheduled for September.” The invoice indicates 25 million euros for all the investments that are and will be made.
“It was therefore high time to bring diversity to the most important body of Belgian football.”
CEO of the Belgian Union
The end of the work is approaching. One more. In three years, the owner of the place has already finished some. “The first was done at the level of the structure of the federation. It was very complex and not always very clear on who does what.” Today, the structure is crystal clear and the last brick was brought in last week with the appointment, for the first time, of two independent directors, Pascale Van Damme and Paul Van den Bulck. “There was the will to bring transparency through external control.
Furthermore, our historic role is to organize football. But the business aspect has become more and more important. It deserves outside skills. Then football is also the mirror of our society. Yet the most important instance was not at all. So it was high time to bring diversity. “
Business income booming
On the side of homework accomplished, Peter Bossaert has managed to put green in the accounts of the federation, with the inevitable exception of the covid years and a loss of 6 million last year. “Until recently, we were operating on a two-year cycle with, each time, a year of important competition which allowed us to be in the green and then a lean year, which was negative. Without the covid, we are now constantly positive, ”explains the boss.
Full screen view
For this, important work on the sponsorship side was necessary. “We have increased commercial revenues by 55%, which has allowed us to be less dependent on sports results,” he says. Well done. Thanks to the Red Devils anyway. “I don’t think we could have achieved all this without the development of the team,” admits Peter Bossaert.
“The structure of our activity means that when we are very successful at the elite level, it gives enough added value to reinvest in the project. Today we have the most beautiful brand in Belgium. But when you’ve been number 1 for three years, you inevitably reach a ceiling. The important thing is to stay as long as possible in the top 3, but also then to settle structurally in the top 10. “
This could for example mean a victory at the Euro. The title would delight a whole people and inevitably also the accountant of Peter Bossaert. In the event of a continental title, the federation would receive 29 million euros. “But that’s to be put in perspective with the huge logistics costs. If you win, with $ 29 million in income, we will generate 7.5 million in profits.”
“I don’t think it’s up to us to support amateur clubs financially. We can’t afford to do that anyway.”
This Euro is also particularly expensive. “It is already more expensive, because we will have 26 players instead of 23. It makes a real difference. Then all the measures necessarily have consequences. For example, for travel, normally we only have one flight with the players and sponsors. Now we need two planes. “
So much for the top of Belgian football. If the boss talks about it visibly with pleasure, the Devils do not, however, fulfill his agenda. Because football in Belgium is also more than 500,000 members for several thousand clubs. “Amateur football remains the heart of our activity. A very large majority of our Red Devils come from there. The system is pyramidal. The top must be healthy, but also the bottom. The development of amateur football is therefore super important. ”
Amateur soccer suffers
And like the top of the pyramid, the amateur base has not really had a great year 2020. “The impact of the health crisis is also great for our amateur clubs,” he regrets. “One of the questions is to know what will happen on the sponsoring side. In amateur clubs, the return for the sponsors is mainly at the level of hospitality, which has not been possible. Everything will depend on those. who will stay. So it’s up to us to help the clubs. ”
“There is no longer any politician to persuade of the lack of structures.”
On this point, even if he has already put his hand in the portfolio, the boss prefers good advice rather than the financial envelope. “We have already supported the clubs to the tune of 8 million euros. But we have 4,000 in Belgium. In the end, it does not represent much per club. Besides, I don’t think it’s up to us to support them financially. We do not have the means to do it anyway. “Instead, the federation prefers to give out good advice.” So today we are working with the regional federations on a plan, in collaboration with PwC. The idea is to establish a healthy financial and sporting framework to help them develop. The regional federations will present it at the end of the summer. “
Once this bad viral period has passed, Peter Bossaert hopes to resume the path of growth on the side of new practitioners. “For example, there is still a lot of potential in girls. Especially when I see the example of hockey. They represent about half of the members against 9% in football.” To attract young ladies to the field, Peter Bossaert has a plan: to bring the organization of the 2027 Women’s World Cup to Belgium.
“It would highlight the discipline. It is the most important women’s sporting event in the world.“The organization would also be a good reason to offer Belgium a stadium worthy of the name.” It would indeed be one more argument, even if today there is no longer any politician to be convinced of the lack of structures. But things are progressing “, smiles the boss for whom the renovation of the King Baudouin stadium seems the clearest track.
- By September, all Belgian football will be gathered in the center of Tubize.
- In case of victory at the Euro, the Belgian Union should make a profit of 7.5 million euros.
- In partnership with PWC, the Belgian Union is working on a support plan for amateur clubs.
- According to Peter Bossaert, the potential of women’s football is still very important.