Invading enemy territory? A look at Standard’s link with Tubize
Just over a fortnight ago, Standard Liège confirmed what the press had already been reporting for several weeks – they had established a formal link with AFC Tubize as part of president Roland Duchâtelet’s ongoing strategy for the club’s future.
It’s no secret that seen in a regional context, football in Belgium is stagnant. The best players from our low-lying country enjoy playing in the mega-rich clubs while our Jupiler Pro League struggles to take off. One only has to look at how Duchâtelet is searching for every possible means to increase Standard’s revenue streams. The club’s debts amount to €24m, which set against the backdrop of foreign clubs is no great shakes but it’s something to keep an eye on nonetheless. If sometimes the president’s ideas seem a little odd and his communication a little gauche, the current state of play only serves vindicate him.
Outside of the biggest clubs, many are having it tough – very tough. In Vlaanderen, how many clubs have merged in order to get out of a financial mess? We can say for certain clubs, it has been rather successful – OH Leuven, Waasland-Beveren and especially Racing Genk are all in the top flight. We could add Beerschot to this list but all the evidence points to them failing to learn the error of their ways, as they helped themselves to half a new team in the January transfer window. Clubs in difficulty are not hard to find and that’s particularly true of those in the second tier.
In the second division, we’ve stopped counting the clubs who have sought external investment. Eupen were taken over by Qataris who hope that the Germanophone club would provide a platform for graduates from their famed Aspire Academy. FC Brussels are also riding the wave of money from the Middle East with Qataris of their own. White Star Woluwé, who set the early pace in the division, had to let go a number of their players as tightening their belt was no longer enough to ward off major financial problems. Fortunately for the Brussels team, they came into money and their knight in shining armour comes from much closer to home. It’s clear that our clubs are in need of help, whether it be by merging, by finding an investor whose interest may be purely financial or by becoming an affiliated club of a top team.
The model example of recent years is without a doubt Mouscron-Péruwelz, who have brought football back to le Canonnier and they’re battling to win promotion to the first division. RMP have worked together with Lille for several years ; the close proximity of the clubs being helping to cement the link. On one hand, RMP benefit from a lot of young players loaned out to them in order to develop, who bolster their squad and on the other, Lille are in the perfect position to have first pick of the players in Mouscron-Péruwelz’s Futurosport academy.
Now we can begin to understand why Standard have rode to Tubize’s rescue. Standard already signed an agreement with FC Brussels a year ago (which now looks like a bit of a blunder given the club’s recent upheaval) and they already have similar arrangements in place with Duchâtelet’s former club Sint-Truiden and Hungarian NB1 outfit Ujpest, whose chairman just happens to be his son Roderick. It is an open secret that Duchâtelet has a great deal of respect for RMP sporting director Philippe Saint-Jean, whom he wanted to replace Ron Jans as coach. Looking at things even more closely, one wonders whether this new intrusion into the Brussels region (dominated at the top level by Standard’s biggest rivals Anderlecht) is in addition to the link up with FC Brussels or whether Standard are preparing the ground for a retreat.
Whatever their intentions, les Rouches are widening their recruitment base. The club already put a lot of work into scouting young players in Wallonie (FC Porto defender Eliaquim Mangala came from UR Namur) and Vlaanderen (Standard offer Flemish youngsters special schooling to take into account the obvious language barrier), it’s become ever clearer that the club from Liège are parking on Anderlecht’s front lawn in Brussels.
The partnership with Tubize will allow young prospects in the Brussels/Brabant area to develop at a good club in the knowledge they are being closely monitored by one of the giants of Belgian football. While it’s therefore a good opportunity for them, it can be equally beneficial for the players in Standard’s famous academy. Of course, it is possible that from next season a system along the lines of that in Spain and Germany will come in, with the top clubs’ youth teams entering the lower divisions but in Tubize, they could play in Belgium’s second tier. Standard currently loan the likes of Pierre-Yves Ngawa and Axel Bonemme to Sint-Truiden and promising players who need time to adapt to life in Belgium (Zaris, Mendez, Bulos). Tubize is therefore an excellent choice in sporting terms and it gives Standard the chance to help out a fellow Walloon club – there is a great imbalance in the Pro League with Standard, Charleroi and Mons flying the flag for French-speaking Belgium, as well as Anderlecht from bilingual Brussels.
To the doubters who are sceptical as to the benefits this cooperation can bring to Standard, you would be wise to remember that a youngster by the name of Eden Hazard was at Tubize before he left for Lille and this is the club who brought through Christophe Lepoint and a certain Jérémy Perbet.
This article was originally written in French for Laura’s excellent football blog On S’en Foot. You can read the original here: