"I do not invest in Beerschot out of love for football & # 039;July 13, 2019
The building contractor and Beerschot owner Francis Vrancken is not happy with it. The decision this week not to have his tradition club promoted to football class 1A was a big blow to the bill. Yet he is certain: "Beerschot remains a good investment."
"We are not 90, but 100 percent sure that we will play in first class later," said Beerschot chairman Francis Vrancken (51) firmly this spring. The day before yesterday, the energetic CEO of the Kempen construction group DCA sat down with the club board to discuss the budget for a season in 1A. Beerschot, who was second in second class last season, counted on 1B champion KV Mechelen not to promote due to research into match fixing.
But this week, Vrancke's dream was shattered. The Belgian Court of Arbitration for Sport (BAS) ruled that KV Mechelen can go first. As a result, KFCO Beerschot Wilrijk remains in 1B, widely maligned as a financial death house where professional teams have the greatest difficulty surviving with their own income. "I'm not good at it," Vrancken says in disbelief. "This is a jaw hit for Belgian football."
It is also a damper for shirt sponsor DCA, which would get more visibility in 1A. When Beerschot was looking for a main sponsor in the summer of 2017, Vrancken had just snapped because he wanted to make his company, which builds and sells residential apartments, more known to the general public. For 227,000 euros per year, he would be the main sponsor for three years.
BIO Francis Vrancken
> Born Kempenaar (51), lives in Schilde.
> Studied economics in Leuven, was in a hurry with Luc Neefs, still his right hand and lawyer.
> Bought his first road construction company in 1999 and acquired DCA in 2006: is the sole owner today.
> Became the main sponsor of football club Beerschot Wilrijk in 2017.
> Acquired half of the shares in 2018. The other 50 percent is in the hands of the Saudi prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad.
DCA Group Profile
> Founded in 1969 as De Clercq & Zonen, a road builder.
> Evolved from a road builder to a diversified construction group and project developer.
> Recently made several acquisitions: the Coraco joinery (2017), the E. Dillen construction company (2018) and the soil recycling specialist GR De Kempen (2018).
> In 2018 achieved a turnover of 192 million euros (+ 53%), a gross operating profit (EBITDA) of 9.2 million euros (+ 94%) and a net profit of 1.5 million euros (+ 41%).
> Has 549 full-time employees.
> Operates from Beerse, where a new head office will be opened in 2020.
Vrancken joined the club thanks to networking. "We were once invited to the lodges or business seats. I was not a diehard fan, nor did I have a premeditated plan, "says the self-made entrepreneur, who became active in road construction with an economics degree and today runs a group with 550 employees and a turnover of 192 million euros.
His entry to Beerschot also had little to do with club love. Since the club had moved on to 1B after the bankruptcy in 2013, the need for professionalization had grown. Beerschot, which was then a non-profit organization and mainly used volunteers, was looking for a professional investor or a transferee, and Kempenaar was polled.
He didn't hesitate long, but that was "not an emotional burst." "It was an opportunity. The club was transformed into an nv and there was no acquisition price. It was merely a question of taking over the assets and liabilities of the non-profit organization, including supplier debts, with the commitment to grow the club. I was sure that the club would regain its former glory, with the number 13 and the purple-white-yellow-blue colors. "In January 2018, an agreement in principle was signed.
There were also talks with the crazy-mad Saudi prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad, who founded the Saudi Paper Manufacturing Company (SPMC) with a number of investors in 1989, specializing in recycled household paper. In 2003, he bought half of Sheffield United for £ 1 million (around € 1.1 million). The English tradition club was then a third division, but will play in the Premier League this season.
"We quickly agreed to distribute the 50/50 shares," says Vrancken. That happened in March, just before the final promotion match in 1B against KV Mechelen, a match that Beerschot lost in the last minutes. The contact with the prince was through Jan Van Winckel. The former fitness trainer from Beerschot was active at the Saudi top club AlHilal when Abdullah was chairman. Van Winckel is one of the five Saudi representatives on the ten-man board of Beerschot. The five other seats are for DCA.
"At first glance it may seem a strange combination, but it works wonderfully well," says Luc Neefs (54), Vrancken's legal right hand and director at DCA. "Each decision must be supported by both owners. Our commitment is set for five years. As long as we continue to operate in tandem, even if there is no promotion to 1A, as it looks like. The prince may have deeper pockets than we do, but he is not supposed to come with money to water us down. We are in our 50 percent of the shares. "
After the missed promotion, we will start a civil procedure and file a claim for damages with the football association. We keep fighting.
The final budget was not yet complete, but the plan was to spend 14 million euros annually if Beerschot came out in 1A. "That amount is likely to fall to 10 to 11 million euros," Vrancken suspects. "For comparison: last season we worked in 1B with an annual budget of 9 million." According to Vrancken, the purchase of important players is legally covered. "There are no clauses in their contracts that allow them to drop out if we do not come out in first class."
The ambition was to break even from the 2020-21 season with Beerschot. These plans can now be stored away. The Beerschot fans, however, were really looking forward to it. The sale of subscriptions went fast. The club was already past the total of last season: around 5,500. And the merchandising pop-up store that was started mid-June already achieved a turnover of 30,000 euros on the first day.
The income from sponsorship and TV rights is a lot lower in 1B, and that is a big blow through the bill. "The loss of income runs into the millions," says Vrancken. "We will start a civil procedure for this and submit a claim for damages to the Football Association. We will not leave it at this. We will continue to fight with this club. "
Despite everything, the Kempen entrepreneur remains convinced of the business case. "Beerschot is a tradition club. That has convinced us to make the investment. We continue to believe that we can consolidate the club as a strong brand in professional football. We don't do that out of love for the game or out of homesickness for the tradition club. It is not my ambition to develop a football empire with Beerschot. This is a rational decision. "
Such an investment creates added value, according to Vrancken. It reflects on the DCA construction group, and leads to greater brand awareness in the sector. "We have been the main sponsor for two seasons. The effect is difficult to measure, but the dynamics and positivism of a club like Beerschot do have an effect on employees and applicants. Until recently we had about 50 vacancies, but almost all of them were filled in the short term. "
The stadium file is also important. With the support of the Saudi prince and Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever (N-VA), Vrancken hopes to be able to build a new multifunctional stadium in Antwerp with DCA in the medium term. The planned location is Petroleum South, the only building plot on the Antwerp drawing board today. "The old stadium on the Kiel, however sympathetic and charming, is good for 12,000 seats, but is struggling with a mobility problem."
Vrancken is considering the model of the Ghelamco Arena in Ghent, and is aiming for a complex of 20 to 25,000 seats, an investment of 80 to 100 million euros. "We are discussing this with business people and financial investors. Concerts, sports and other events on the lawn will also be possible. "
Whether he has also spoken with the property developer and FC Antwerp owner Paul Gheysens, who is busy expanding and renovating the Bosuil? "We regularly see him in the context of football," says Vrancken. "But I haven't discussed it with him yet. We are not going to do that either. Each sails its own course. We owe it to our supporters. Football fans are very region-specific. Don't underestimate that. Petroleum Zuid is the place where Beerschot has its fan base. "
Prince Abdullah is asking for a new stadium, it sounds. "He sees enormous financial leverage there. With Beerschot, he wants to develop a steadfast first-class club, just like at Sheffield United. That is also an important motivation for us. "
Scha and shame
But the main activity will never be football, says the building contractor. "We have grown strongly with DCA. In 2018 alone, sales increased by 53 percent to over 190 million euros, the gross operating profit (EBITDA, ed.) nearly doubled to 9.2 million and the number of employees increased by almost half. We are in a position to consolidate so that we can take another step forward in the medium term. "
The positivism around Beerschot has an effect on my company DCA. Until recently we had about 50 vacancies, but almost all of them were filled.
In this way, time is released to initiate a similar growth process at Beerschot, says Vrancken. With his Saudi co-owner, he wants to fully focus on the youth. "We want to make Beerschot a strong first class player with 35 percent of its own trained players," he wrote on Twitter. The collaboration with the Rupel Boom club was recently transformed into a merger, giving the Kiel tradition club over 1,000 youth players. There is even a waiting list. "Youth is our future."
Although the realization of the business plan remains dependent on many uncertain factors. "Football will always be a great deal of emotion," says Vrancken. "Look at the recent decision of the sports tribunal in the match fixing case. We also had to experience that to our shame. It is now important to calculate this setback as rationally as possible. "
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