Club Brugge-Cercle Brugge at odds over new stadium


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The City of Bruges in Flemish region of Belgium has come out with a proposal for new €100 million (US$111 million) stadia for Club Brugge – a football club based in Bruges in Belgium – and Cercle Brugge – a Belgian professional football club also based in Bruges. Both are Belgian Pro League football teams. The proposal has not yet been given the nod by the latter. The delivery is planned for 2024.

Club Brugge has, however, reached an agreement with the city of Brugge and they hosted a joint press conference to announce the new plan. It’s still all about a 40,000-seater but this time it would be built in Olimpia next to the current home of both the teams – Jan Breydel Stadion.

Presently, both Club Brugge and Cercle Brugge share the 29,000-seat Jan Breydel Stadium which is owned by the City of Bruges. The stadium opened its gates in 1975 and was one of the venues for the 2000 UEFA European Championships, which Belgium co-hosted with the Netherlands. The team’s current venue was built by rival club Cercle Brugge in 1973.

In a statement released recently, the city gave out the details for new stadia for its two top-flight association football clubs, as Jan Breydel Stadium has become obsolete.

A plan has been put forward that Club Brugge build a new facility just adjacent to the current Jan Breydel Stadium, while a new ground is built for Cercle Brugge along the Blankenbergse Steenweg in Belgium. The new Club Brugge venue would boast a capacity of 40,000 and construction is due for completion by the 2022-23 seasons.

The city drove home the point that reducing the number of tenants on the Jan Breydel Stadium site would lessen the impact of pedestrian traffic and noise pollution on match days. For the new Club Brugge arena, smart mobility and parking solutions have been proposed.

The City of Bruges said the proposal is in keeping with Cercle Brugge’s demand for its standalone facility. The capacity of this stadium has not yet been determined.

Club Brugge said in a statement that it fully backs the plans for a new venue but Cercle Brugge is sulking and stated that it is “astonished” to hear about the whole idea.

Cercle argued that it has been proactively involved in carving out a solution that would work to the advantage of both the city and its two football clubs and had earlier floated the idea of a detailed renovation project for Jan Breydel Stadium, as well as suggesting alternative sites.

Cercle further said that it had always enjoyed “good dialogue” with the city but stated that the recent proposal outlined “has never been discussed in any scenario”, with the club having first been informed about the plans over telephone late in the night one day prior.

Cercle’s statement continued, “We have so far received no official written communication, financial or other guarantees, or any detail on this proposal to base a strategic decision. We are only aware of the decision of the Bruges Schepen College of June 22, 2015, in which it is stated that Cercle can continue its sporting activities on the Jan Breydel site in the event that Club Brugge wishes to move to Blankenbergse Steenweg.”

The statement laid stress on the fact that Cercle is satisfied with its current training ground and has contributed to recent renovation work at Jan Breydel Stadium. Cercle said that there is no concrete proposal that currently offers a solution which works in the interest of the club.

The statement added, “Given the history of problems Club Brugge has had with the Blankenbergse Steenweg site, there is no legal certainty that a stadium can ever be built there, and that within a reasonable period of time. Cercle Brugge now wants to sit down with the city council as quickly as possible in order to find a concrete, workable solution that offers the necessary guarantees for Cercle.”

Club Brugge has ambitious plans to dominate the Belgian Pro League like Anderlecht had in the past, becoming a regular Champions League contender. Anderlecht is a Belgian professional football club based in Anderlecht, Brussels Capital-Region.

The way to reach the top is a brand new football stadium that would come up in place of the 44-year-old Jan Breydel Stadion. The whole idea of constructing a 40,000-seater was conceived – backed by market research – way back in 2007 but to this day Club Brugge has not seen a final rendering, let alone any construction work.

Red tapism is partly to blame for this delay thanks to the famous Belgian bureaucracy coupled with serious issues with land ownership. Over the last decade at least three locations were under thorough assessment. The latest one, in the north of Brugge, came unstuck because of league competitors, whose investors owned portions of the land.

Among the myriad plus points of the scheme is complete ownership of the site by the city of Brugge. It’s also a site where a stadium could, at least in theory, be fitted in a natural way, as continuation of sports and leisure use of the area. Also, match days could still be hosted just next doors and when the new arena is ready, Jan Breydel Stadion would be knocked down and in lieu of it will come up parking and anciliary facilities.

The plan is still at a fledgling stage, and there is a lot to work on. A detailed concept and full design documentation have to be green lighted at various levels, starting with Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Pulling down of Jan Breydel Stadion, however, crops up the question of the future of Cercle Brugge. The smaller football club already has its plans set for a small arena. Both Cercle and Club’s new stadium are part of the city’s development strategy for 2019-2025 and have been listed as priority projects. Cercle would likely move to a purpose-built stadium which can hold spectators from 12,000 to 15,000 in the north of Brugge.

Club Brugge’s President, Bart Verhaeghe, said, “The stadium is old and dangerous, worn out. The sooner we leave the better for everyone. For the future of the club and for the entire environment. This will give Sint-Andries and Bruges a boost. That is precisely why I am convinced that it will work this time.”

However, with impending new European club soccer venue regulations, Verhaeghe is well aware of the need for change – “Everything will change, the requirements to play at the absolute top will become more demanding. Imagine that you miss out because you are not allowed to play in your own stadium. Okay, we are Belgium and we will always be Belgium. But I still want to be able to do what Ajax does. We needed a solution for our stadium, and we have now found it.”

The initial plans for the new stadium were part of Holland and Belgium’s 2018 World Cup bid. After that failed to happen in 2010, the club continued to chalk out plans for a new home ground but disagreements with local authorities proved to be a hurdle to the entire process. Now that a deal has been agreed upon, construction can begin.

The Belgian league leaders had long pursued plans to build a new venue in another part of the city, but administrative entanglements led to a decision being made on the original site. The club will finance the stadium build. Land will be leased from the city.

The Jan Breydel Stadion, a municipal stadium, was built to replace the old Albert Dyserynck Stadion and alleviate some of the club’s financial woes. The stadium received a major facelift ahead of Euro 2000.

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