Dutch cities set aside €240 million to support pro football clubs
The 32 Dutch municipalities that have professional football clubs spent at least 240 million euros over the past decade to support these clubs, according to a study done by Nieuwsuur. This involves loans, standing guarantee for loans, subsidies and stadium purchases, among other things.
The municipalities currently have more than 34 million euros outstanding in loans to various football clubs. The municipality of Almelo, for example, borrowed Heracles 8.3 million euros. And the Hague lent Ado Den Haag 6.5 million euros. Utrecht lost 20.5 million euros in a loan to the owner of Galgenwaard stadium when he went bankrupt.
Many municipalities also stand guarantee for a loan their football organization took out. Over the past decade, this involved 56 million euros. So long as the football club is in a good financial position, standing guarantee for a loan will not cost a municipality anything. But if the club gets into trouble, the municipality could lose millions of euros.
Municipalities also support football clubs in other ways. The municipality spent 690 thousand euros to buy part of the stand and associated ground in the Telstar stadium. For 350 thousand euros, Eindhoven is now the proud owner of four light columns in the Eindhoven stadium. Leeuwarden gave SC Cambuur 680 thousand euros to use the word Leeuwarden in the club's official name. Twelve of the 32 municipalities own their clubs' stadium, or at least a significant share.
Gerd Leers, who made the first call to end financial support to professional football clubs as mayor of Maastricht in 2003, is shocked by the figures. "Madness, what could we have done with all that public money", he commented to broadcaster NOS.
Maarten Allers, professor of Economics of local governments, thinks that the municipalities should talk to each other. "Actually they should agree not to do this anymore. Then you have a more fair competition and save a lot of public money." He is also concerned about the municipalities who own their clubs' stadiums. That leads to the club having the municipality in a stranglehold. "Such a club knows that a stadium without a club is virtually worthless, so you can do crazy things. The municipality keeps supporting you anyway." he said to the broadcaster.