Thomas Peeters on the financial problems of Belgian football club Standard

Het Laatste Nieuws
Erasmus School of Economics

In an interview with Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, Thomas Peeters, Sports Economist at Erasmus School of Economics talks about the financial problems of Belgian football club Standard. The club established a PLC (Public Limited Company) in order to finance its football stadium. 'This financing construction might yield money now, but will create problems in the long term.' 

The chairman of the PLC bought the stadium to rent to the football club. This way, the club figured they could cover their negative net operating capital of 14 million euros and their cash flow problems. However, the Licensing Committee found the solvency to be insufficiently proven. The football club questions this and speaks of a clear deed of sale. 

Pay out and claw back operation

According to Peeters, such a financial construction is more common in the football industry but often disappointing. 'Clubs often let another party take care of their properties, but in this case, there is no investment - no changes have been made to the stadium - and you have some sort of pay out and claw back operation. It's making money now, but it will cost money in the future.' The loan, with a stadium as gigantic collateral, will further increase operational costs, meaning that the members of the PLC will have to collect rent in the long run to make up for the investment. And the Licensing Committee may find it difficult to verify the amount of capital behind the company. 

Shortages

Peeters mentions how Standard has shown cash shortages in its latest annual reports, whereas in 2010 the club was the richest in Belgium. At the end of 2014, the club had reserves of more than 12 million euros, five years later this was only 1.2 million euros, which is the legal minimum. 'In the last annual report, Standard reported a loss of 8 million euros and wage costs of 34.5 million euros, which is quite substantial for a Belgian team. Weaker performance and disappointing transfers are part of the explanation, but the fixed income from TV money, sponsors and tickets does not cover the club's operational costs', Peeters explains. 

Gambling business

Standard is counting on lucrative transfers or a good European campaign for financial balance. Peeters points out that this is easier said than done. 'With the increased competition in Belgium, making it to the Champions League is not an easy task. And the transfer market is a gambling business.' According to Peeters, Standard will probably get the license through The Belgian Court of Arbitration for Sport (BAS). 'It is not believable to downgrade the largest Walloon club to the amateur level and thus cut 40% of the TV market. This penalty is so absurd that in practice it is out of the question.'

Professor
More information

The full article of Het Laatste Nieuws, 10 April 2020, can be found here (in Dutch).