48 years later, the Union saint-gilloise is reborn sportingly and financially
In case of victory this Saturday, the legendary football club of Saint-Gilles could already pocket its ticket for the D1. A return to the top level, 48 years after leaving it. The challenges abound. The financial will be the most complex.
Even if at the time it was not even a project for his parents, the year 1973 is undoubtedly important for Philippe Bormans. It is in any case for the oldest supporters of the club of which he is the CEO. At 33, he is the patron of the legendary Union Saint-Gilles club and 1973 is the year his club left D1. Almost half a century. In short, a very long time ago. Especially for a football club. The return to the top is however scheduled for 2021 and perhaps even this Saturday evening, if the Union manages to get rid of its eternal rival RWDM.
“The economic aspect is our biggest challenge.”
The rise will not only be symbolic. It will mark the return of an institution. With almost 124 years on the clock, the number is part of the history of the Belgian round ball. The ancestor also has some pretty trophies in his keepsake cabinet. “The Club has a history and remains the third most successful in Belgium”, recalls, not without pride, Philippe Bormans. “It’s been a long time, but with our 11 titles we have more crowns than Standard.”
The income challenge
The 12e However, the title is not expected in the wake of the ascent. The Union needs time. This can be seen as soon as you enter its enclosure. A single covered stand for a total of only 9,500 places of which a good part standing. No VIP space and prefabricated units as an office for the ten or so workers at the club. The picture is far from that of the mauve neighbor or the blauw project in zwart of the Venice of the north. The balance sheet repeats itself from year to year with annual losses of around 6 million euros. “The economic aspect is our biggest challenge”, explains the young boss.
The infrastructure puzzle
Like all his adversaries, he can play on four tables to supply the cash registers. Income from transfers, television rights, sponsorship and ticketing. The first source is already out of play. The club wants to be competitive and does not intend to sell its nuggets. TV rights should skyrocket. “We will go from less than a million to more than two million euros.” First good news. Probably the only one. With its infrastructure, the USG company does not have much to offer its sponsors more than visibility on its jersey. “On this level, I dream of a maximum of a million euros”, admits the boss.
“It’s simple we need to reach a budget of 16 million per year as quickly as possible.”
Finally, there is the supporters’ income. And here too, the switch to D1 will not change the situation much. For a D1B club, the USG already has a great community and will undoubtedly be able to regularly have a stadium at its peak. “If we play the 17 home games sold-out, we can reach 1.2 million euros in revenue.” No more. The club is blocked by its current situation. “It is impossible to hope for more spectators or to increase the price of the entrance. You cannot ask for more than ten euros to come and see a match standing up, exposed to the wind and the rain”, regrets Philippe Bormans .
Do better with less
When he does the math, Philippe Bormans comes to a clear conclusion: he will miss millions. “It’s simple, we must as quickly as possible reach a budget of 16 million euros per year (against 8 million this year, Editor’s note). Which is good below other clubs, but I think we can probably do better than the rest with less. “
The young CEO can however count on England. For the past three years, two investors from across the Channel have put their bags down in Brussels with the firm intention of making the Duden park club shine again. “Foreign investors are often looked down upon. But here, they have a real project and are there for a long time“, he assures. Tony Bloom and Alex Muzio have already lengthened more than 20 million euros in two years to make the team competitive. The athlete now on the right track, remains the site of the infrastructure. “In reality, everything is already ready. We have blocked a budget of 50 million euros to renovate the stadium or move. It no longer depends on us, but on what we can envisage with the municipality and the Region.”
The CEO believes in it, the USG is relaunched. “It took about three years to get back to the top sporting. It will take the same thing to finally have the right infrastructure and another three more years to become a balanced club again. There are a lot of external factors, But so we can achieve it in less than a decade. “See you in 2027. The Union has already waited 48 years, it can still be a little patient.