The owners of AA Gent, one of Belgium’s top football clubs, are looking for a financial bail-out, according to De Tijd.
That could take the form of a new major investor, or a complete takeover, the paper reports.
The problem is that football these days has become a multi-billion business worldwide, with huge inflows of cash from all corners. That puts pressure on clubs to spend more – on players, on stadium facilities, trainers, travel and so on.
But Ivan De Witte (74) and Michel Louwagie (65) are not at that level. The club’s finances have been analysed and the conclusion reached that only a new investor with deep pockets can keep AA Gent at the top of Belgian football.
“Due to the changed context in football – where big money rules – De Witte is beckoning for external capital, via an investor or a complete takeover,” one source told the paper.
“It is out of the question that it will stop at remain with a change of management.”
At present the hunt is still in an exploratory phase; no sales process has even been started.
But AA Gent has been the subject of exploration before, with feelers put out by a rich American investor, as well as the owner of Cookware, the Belgian company behind the Greenpan brand. Of the two, preference would go to the Belgian investor, all other things being equal.
Part of the reason, but an important part, is the relationship between the club and the Ghent city council, which has made its preference for a local anchor known. The only trouble is, the biggest offer is very likely to come from abroad.
In the 1990s, AA Gent was a failing club, with €25 million debt and next to no income. De Witte and Louwagie arrived as white knights and began the long slog to return the club to financial health. That was ultimately successful – the club had €60 million in turnover in 2019-2020.