The best Belgian and Dutch football clubs are drawing up a proposal for a cross-border competition known as the BeNeLigue.
Belgian Supporters, the organisation responsible for Belgian fans, is concerned the creation of this competition would severely impact the fans’ experience. Dutch fans have practical objections such as the longer travel distances and they are worried about the impact on Dutch football culture.
Belgian Supporters is particularly critical about the lack of clarity regarding the rules of the new competition, which is being backed by the Belgian G5 (Ghent, Club Bruges, Genk, Anderlecht and Standard) and six Dutch clubs (Ajax, FZ, FC Utrecht, Feyenoord, PSV and Vitesse).
“Plans are being developed but we don’t know exactly what Deloitte’s studies contain. Have they taken into account the huge consequences in terms of security? How will the fan’s experience change? What criteria will be used to determine who will take part? How do you manage European tickets? Lots of questions, very few answers,” said Belgian Supporters’ president Eddy Janssis. “I understand Anderlecht-Ajax is a much more appealing match than say, Anderlecht-Courtrai, but did the study also take into account the journey time and the increased security measures in the Netherlands? In any case, we are currently talking to our members about this and it will be included in the agenda for the next General Assembly next week. We are in contact with the Dutch Supporter’s Collective and we will join forces to make our voices heard.”
“We are not enthusiastic about it,” said Matthijs Keuning, president of the Supporterscollectief Nederland, which almost all the supporter’s associations for the professional Dutch clubs are a member of. “Our unique football culture would go out the window with this kind of merger. The Eredivisie is a championship considered to have attractive football and good players. A league in which the NAC could win against PSV and Emmen FC could win against Ajax. We don’t really understand how they could scrap that image by joining up with Belgium, where the competition has a different image because of corruption and other crazy things. On top of that, a merger like this involving less popular sports has already failed. It is difficult to get all the clubs to agree in the Netherlands and it will be even more so if two countries have to agree.”
The Supporterscollectief told the Dutch Federation they wanted to discuss the issue. Football fans will do some research to see how much support there is for it. The BeNeLigue was previously discussed within the supporter’s organisation. “The joint conclusion was: we don’t want it. If the aim is to improve the quality of the football, there are many other ways to do that. You have to ensure there is an existing open football pyramid and that the clubs can’t mutually empty the youth training centres. We really don’t need Belgian clubs to increase our resistance. Dutch football as a brand is stronger than Belgian football.”