The six behind the scenes: The Presidents of Play-Off I

Who are the big beasts (De sterke mannen / Les hommes forts) behind the scenes of this season’s top six in the Jupiler Pro League? We always talk about the players, coaches and referees but not often about the Presidents, as they are more often called on the continent. will try to give you an idea how every club made it happen to become one of the best clubs in Belgium.

RSC Anderlecht: Roger Vanden Stock

Roger Vanden Stock is the top man at Anderlecht and the best known of the six. His father Constant, after whom the stadium is named, came into money when he sold off his brewery, Belle-Vue in 1991 and five years later, Roger inherited the club. Taking a different approach from his father, who negotiated himself with the top players he really wanted to bring in, Roger allowed sporting directors Michel Verscheuren and Herman Van Holsbeeck take charge of the transfer dealings . Under his leadership Anderlecht became 7 times Champion of Belgium and won 1 Cup Final. His dream is to give his beloved club a new/renovated stadium and a successful year in the Champions League before he will retire.

Club Brugge: Bart Verhaeghe

Anderlecht’s biggest rivals historically have a young and wealthy President. Bart Verhaeghe, who is a real estate developer, wants to revive the club from West-Vlaanderen by reorganising the club from top to bottom. He became President during a difficult period for Club Brugge. His task now is to bring the glory days back to the Jan Breydelstadion, not seen since the last title in 2005. He has already changed the structure of the club and he began to implement a strategy to return the club to what they were. The old guard are not really happy with the way he began to go about his business. He started to buy a lot of players for quite some money and gave them high salaries. Afterwards he admitted this was not the way he should have managed the club and he asked the fans to give him some extra time. Now in full control of the club, he wants to build a new stadium for Club Brugge, separate from Cercle and wants to win the title within two years. The future will tell us more about this man.

Standard de Liège: Roland Duchâtelet

It was quite a shock in Belgium when former politician and entrepreneur Roland Duchâtelet became the new President of Standard Liège in 2012. Not the fact that he would be in charge of a football club, because he owned Sint-Truiden before he started his adventure in Liège, but the fact that people didn’t know his true intentions. The fans of les Rouches loved former owner Luciano were not happy the moment they heard how Duchâtelet wanted to start organising the club. He wanted to sell off players, or revise the contracts of the club’s biggest earners because he felt that the wages were too high at Standard. This was the beginning of a cold war between the President and the fans. The fanatical supporters didn’t want to have a transitional period but wanted to win titles and compete with the other top clubs in Belgium.  Duchâtelet wants to invest in youth and he dreams of winning a title with a team where most of them came from his own academy. He has also been outspoken in his support for a BeNeLiga but he is currently a lone voice.

Racing Genk: Herbert Houben

The youngest of the six at 41, Herbert Houben is somebody who really works behind the scenes. You don’t see him a lot in the media. He is more interested in making Racing Genk a financially healthy topclub in Belgium. So far he is doing great by not throwing money away and still improving his team. Last 3 years they had their best years ever by winning the title in 2011 and selling players like Thibaut Courtois, Christian Benteke and Kevin De Bruyne for a lot of money. Houben wisely invested the money in conjunction with sporting director Dirk Degraen with the result that Genk have a well-balanced squad. Houben feels that by being financially prudent now, he can in time substantially increase the annual budget of the club from Limburg.  Herbert Houben and Racing Genk are a good story that certainly will be continued.

KSC Lokeren: Roger Lambrecht

Roger Lambrecht, the President of Sporting Lokeren, treats his club as a father would his children. He has been in charge since 1994 and though recently he has taken a back seat, he remains a popular and well-known figure. He is a president of the people and makes sure that his club has financial stabilty. Lambrecht puts a lot of stock in having a top coach and loves to have a good relationship with his coach, famously rewarding them handsomely. Peter Maes is currently doing an outstanding job but Lambrecht has managed to keep hold of his man. The club easily achieved this season’s goal of  reaching PO1. It wasn’t always so easy for the club but Lambrecht oversaw the club’s promotion early in his tenure.  Lokeren fans would though be right to worry about what will happen when Lambrecht is not capable anymore of running the club. Without a doubt, the 81-year old’s most memorable moment was when Lokeren won the Belgian Cup in 2012.

Zulte Waregem: Willy Naessens

Like his Genk counterpart, Willy Naessens (not to be confused with his namesake, who sponsors Waasland-Beveren) is a man who almost never appears in the press and is always on the background. Naessens, who studied electronic engineering in Kortrijk, became chairman of Zultse VV in 1981 and took up the same role when they merged with KSV Waregem in 2001. Since Zulte Waregem was formed, they have consistently punched above their weight, even in their UEFA Cup campaign and this season  Willy Naessens prepared the season very well together with CEO Patrick Decuyper and head coach Francky Dury.

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