Coucke chokes on purple-white soupDecember 22, 2018
Marc Coucke is the owner of Anderlecht for one year. He swore to take over the record champion, which turned out to be more lead than gold nugget, and was sucked into a hurricane that drew over Belgian football. And the storm is not over yet.
Marc Coucke's track at Anderlecht shows striking similarities with that of Bart Verhaeghe at rival Club Brugge. After the take-over of Club, he was particularly scornful and seemed to push the club even further with a series of failed transfers and trainer choices. Only with the appointment of coach Michel Preud'homme in 2013 came peace, which culminated three years later in the first title in eleven years.
Club Brugge is today sporting and commercial again. The original cold relationship between Verhaeghe and West Flemish fans is now a stormy romance.
At Anderlecht it is openly admitted that it was as the number one of Belgian football rocked to sleep and in many areas has been overtaken by Club. 'I hope that Marc succeeds, in the interests of Belgian football,' said Verhaeghe this week about the very difficult first year of Coucke in Purple & White.
There is a second parallel. Verhaeghe and his right-hand man, CEO Vincent Mannaert, sent sports manager Luc Devroe shortly after their palace revolution. At Anderlecht, Coucke Devroe, his loyal sports director at ex-club KV Oostende, also shoved aside mercilessly.
Just as with Verhaeghe at the beginning of his regnum, the criticism of Coucke is devastating. It is a big soup at Anderlecht in all areas, is the verdict.
Despite the biggest sporting slump in years, there is some improvement outside the field. The professionalization and commercialization of the club, deployed under CEO and ex-AB InBev-topper Jo Van Biesbroeck, came to cruising speed with the arrival of Coucke.
Commercial revenues excluding transfers grew by 5 million euros to 45 million. The number of sponsors increased from 12 to 33. On match days, the club serves 2,000 people in seven restaurants, with prizes between € 65 and € 245 per cover.
The knife also went into the costs. There were 60 redundancies against 30 newcomers. According to Anderlecht, the club is now breaking even without transfer revenues, while last year it booked an operational loss of 10 million. That bleeding is fixed, Couckes first priority.
That's where the good news stops. There are several tens of millions of missed revenue from the missed Champions League participation, which will depress revenue. A heavy blow is also the departure of the young commercial topper Matthijs Keersebilck (32), who absolutely wanted to keep Coucke on board. Keersebilck, a Van Biesbroeck poulain, is seen as the architect of commercial growth.
The new priority is the funeral march on the field. Devroe is the bad transfers rubbed and is replaced by Michaël Verschueren, the son of the legendary Anderlecht manager Mister Michel. Verschueren jr., Who has an international network as a director of the European league for clubs, gets alongside Frank Arnesen, who worked for Chelsea, a new technical director.
The final puzzle piece of the new sporting staff will be a replacement for the dismissed coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck. At the same time, the brush also went through the medical staff.
At the takeover the verdict was that Coucke bought a dusty gold nugget. A year later it seems that he got kilos of lead with a layer of golden varnish.
He and his associate Joris Ide paid 75 million for three-quarters of the shares, five times more than the bravery prize that Verhaeghe put on the table for Club. Coucke adored the takeover, you can hear. Because he stepped late in the sales process and everyone was speedy, the book research had to be done quickly. Afterwards, financial corpses would have fallen out of the closet. That must now clear Coucke.
Because Coucke was late in the sales process, the book research had to be done quickly. Afterwards, financial corpses would have fallen out of the closet.
Due to past obligations, Coucke became legally berserk with the former shareholders. He refuses to transfer a 6 million mark of the acquisition amount because he feels misled by the old management.
Under the sports manager Herman Van Holsbeeck who had been dismissed this year, towering commissions on transfers would have been paid, which only came to light after the takeover. The fraud and money laundering scandal in Belgian football, Operation Zero, led to a search at Van Holsbeeck due to suspicions of illegal, private commissions for transfers and VAT fraud.
In the same context, Coucke refuses to donate millions of agreed commission to real estate agent Christophe Henrotay for the transfer of Red Devil Youri Tielemans to Monaco. Tielemans was not aware of this and left with banging doors at Henrotay.
The latter indicated that they wanted to be paid the last cent and that the interest continues to run. Van Holsbeeck has demanded about 2 million overdue wages from Coucke through the courts.
When it rains, it pours. While Anderlecht become nervous because detectives copied the hard disks of the club computers during a raid for Operation Zero, a study by the FIFA world football association is circling above the club.
Leaked documents from the Football Leaks whistleblowing site show that the federation is looking at irregularities in the transfers of youth players. The conclusions of the investigation, dating from three years ago, were passed on to the FIFA disciplinary committee. That would not have made a statement yet. In the event of a negative outcome, the club risks a fine and even a transfer ban.
Belgian football has been in turmoil since researchers invaded a whole series of football teams on 10 October, brokers such as the ubiquitous Mogi Bayat and regret fan Dejan Veljkovic and referees. You can read more about the cesspool in Belgian football in this analysis 'The Sopranos of the grass'.
The European Commission sent a questionnaire to Belgium in 2012 because there were doubts about whether it was illegal State aid. Now that Belgian football is under international scrutiny due to the money laundering scandal, the fear among Belgian clubs is growing that sleeping dogs wake up.
The clubs would have received almost a billion euros in tax benefits in the past ten years. At Anderlecht it was 10 million euros last year, one tenth of the turnover.
The European rules may also be a breakthrough in the reform of the broker jungle in Belgium. Coucke is regarded as a driver as the Pro League chief, the association of professional football clubs. He launched a plan last week to restrict brokers. But there are serious doubts whether a series of measures will stand up to Europe's test.
"Restricting access to the profession or introducing a maximum percentage of commissions on transfers, it simply never gets that", says experts. There is also a stumbling over the tandem that Coucke forms with the Pro League with CEO Pierre François, who is described as 'too ancien regime to fatten the stable'.
Coucke has his hands more than full with Anderlecht. But he also has to play chess at the Belgian level. The fast number figure quickly realized that the commercial stretch at Anderlecht is limited. He realizes that profit can be achieved if the clubs work together: catching up on the construction of stadiums, on reforming the competition format, and on better negotiated TV contracts – the top 5 clubs account for 80 percent of the competition. TV audience.
Only then can Coucke realize its ambition to double the commercial turnover without transfers to 100 million, where Porto, Benfica and Ajax from smaller European competitions succeed. The global elite, which increasingly succeeds in commercializing its global brand via e-commerce and social media, can never be overtaken.
On the Belgian level, Coucke must take on his nature in the role of politician. The power in Belgian football is divided between Coucke, who got the Pro League, and Verhaeghe, the boss in the football association. They are far from friends, but the hope is that the two male archers will put their house-high ego aside in a marriage of convenience to take Belgian football out of the swamp. Together they will have to play and win – the small clubs have a majority of the votes – to make it their home.
Coucke opted for the flight ahead. His solution: money. He responded to his shareholders this week with the plan to raise the capital of Anderlecht by 30 to 35 million euros.
Coucke sees the club as an important link in the entertainment empire that he is building. His adventure resort in Durbuy, golf courses, the Pairi Daiza zoo, the indoor ski slopes of Snow World and Anderlecht attract 5 million visitors every year. He wants to turn Anderlecht into that tourist machine.
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