A while ago I wrote about how different clubs in Brussels try to revive the memory of the old RWDM: FC Brussels has been trying it for years, RWDM 2003 is an amateur club claiming the legacy of RWDM, and FC Bleid Gaume (or Bleid Molenbeek as they are commonly called since relocation to Brussels) was the newest and most promising attempt in reviving the legacy of the old RWDM.
Meanwhile, a few weeks later, situations have changed and total chaos rules over football in the capital district (obviously with the exception of top team RSC Anderlecht who, despite less good results lately, still lead in the playoffs at the time of writing… but in their shadow, all other clubs in the capital seem to struggle heavily). The things I wrote a short while ago are already largely invalid due to recent changes, and total chaos rules over the clubs in the capital in between RSC Anderlecht (very stable) and the amateur clubs (mostly stable but not really trying to grow rapidly – unlike White Star Woluwe, FC Brussels, FC Bleid etc).
Let’s start with a look at the clubs from division 2 till 4, as they were the ambitious ones trying to grow and further develop despite the fierce competition from Belgium’s top club Anderlecht.
FC Brussels announced proudly that a group of Dubai based investors would heavily finance the club and bring in a lot of talented players. Despite that, current club president Johan Vermeersch would also remain in a leading role. Brussels would that way professionalise strongly and aim for top division football very soon.
A few weeks later, none of these plans remain. The UAE investors sent some players and apparently made one single payment (though I am not entirely sure of this) before Vermeersch broke all contacts with them. Within the staff of FC Brussels, coaches and board members became divided between those supporting the current board and those supporting the Dubai investment. This has lead to large insecurity (it will be a question mark whether the club has finances enough to get its license to remain in second division), uncertainty about the future, internal struggles, and lately even a part of the coaching staff resigned because of their support for the Dubai investment group. Part of the players chose side with them and went on strike.
Last weekend, Brussels had only 1 reserve player in the selection: reserve goalkeeper Cyprien Baguette. The other players were the 11 on the pitch itself. All others were on strike. It is a miracle that in such chaotic circumstances, the club managed to collect quite a few points the last week, resulting in near-certainty about not relegating to division 3 (unless they would be refused a license). However, insecurity about the future remains, and the crowd is getting tired of this. In the derby versus White Star Woluwe, the near 15000 seats capacity stadium in Molenbeek was virtually empty with less than 500 people attending the derby. An all time low for the club that so ambitiously brought KFC Strombeek to Molenbeek about 10 years ago, changed its name to FC Molenbeek Brussels Strombeek and wanted to fill the void that RWDM had left behind.
Unless plans change again, the club will take on a new logo and rebrand itself RWD Brussels Molenbeek. Let’s see if this plan first of all gets realised, and if it has any enthousiast effect on the disappointed fans.
Second club that was flying high in division II was White Star Woluwe, although they are a bit different as in: they never tried to be the follow up of RWDM, even if some former RWDM fans follow the team. White Star won the first tier of the championship and thus qualified for the playoffs for promotion to the highest level of Belgian football. The club lost its leader position and meanwhile KV Oostende has assured itself the championship title and promotion to the highest division. Woluwe is still in the top-7 though and normally could qualify for top division football through the playoffs.
That dream is long gone. Promised payments from investors remain unpaid, players have not received salary as it should be, and the players even went on strike for the derby against FC Brussels. To avoid an embarrassing forfait defeat, Woluwe played that derby with a mixture of players from their U19 and other youth squads. The team that played the derby were mostly guys aged 16, 17 or 18. The oldest player in that squad was 20 years old. Obviously the derby was lossed but with a 3-0 loss the youngsters didn’t do so bad (Brussels did miss two additional penalty kicks).
Yesterday it was announced that, as the promised investments did not come yet, the club decided to enter administration. This means they can forget about the license and will likely relegate to division 3. To stay in division 2, they need a financial miracle in extremely rapid tempo. The top division is a dream already long forgotten, the club already told they won’t play the playoffs after all (but by going into administration the odds are sky high a license will be refused, which means they disqualify for the playoffs anyway). The players are per direct released of their contracts and can seek a new club. Those players who will play for White Star in the remaining few games of the season will do so voluntarely, so the odds they will have to field half a reserve team are high. Whether the club will survive, and in which division they will be next year, will largely depend on the administrators now.
FC Bleid Gaume, from the village of Bleid near the Luxembourg border, was moved the over 200 km to Brussels with the intention to swallow the 8th division amateur team RWDM 2003 at the end of the season, rename itself RWDM 47 and be the follow up of the legendary RWDM. Michel De Wolf invested heavily in that project and initially fans of the old RWDM followed and even attended games wearing RWDM banners and scarves. The enthousiasm about this "new RWDM" was quite big.
Meanwhile this plan has been abandonned. Not only did FC Bleid continue its losing streak (they remain on the very bottom spot of 3rd division B and relegation to 4th division cannot be avoided) but the plan to become the new RWDM incarnation has been abolished too. The fact the team did not manage to realise that goal scared off fans who stopped attending games. Also, I can not remember even having seen a team at this level using 5 different grounds in 1 season due to not having an own stadium. The initial idea to play at the B pitch of the Machtensstadion (FC Brussels, formerly RWDM) was abolished and due to not having a home the team already had to play 2 games outside of the capital district in the early season. They then agreed to lease the B pitch of the national stadium (at the Heizel in Laeken) for the rest of the season, with the issue that 5th division club Etoile Bruxelles Capitale was already using the ground for many seasons and thus had the priority. Initially the FA managed to assure they never had home games at the same time, but in the end they could not avoid to schedule FC Bleid games when the Heizel B was used by the national rugby team or when Etoile Bruxelles Capitale already had a home game the same day. This forced FC Bleid Molenbeek to use the Stade Fallon (White Star Woluwe’s ground) a few times as emergency solution. Last Sunday, Etoile Bruxelles had a home game so the Heizel B was occupied, and FC Bleid Molenbeek moved its home game against Verviers (2-2 result, a rare non-defeat) to the Joseph Mariënstadium of Union St Gilloise. The 5th ground they have already used this season, and the stands were virtually empty. Fans seem to give up and abandon the club massively.
Still, of the clubs mentioned, it may be FC Bleid who has the brightest future: Red Devils and Man City captain Vincent Kompany wanted to do something to offer quality sporting programs for the ethnically diverse youth in Brussels. He in the end decided to invest in a club and his choice was FC Bleid. He bought the club and rather than trying to rebrand it as a new RWDM, Vincent Kompany decided to really take a clean start.
The club will be managed daily by his sister and father, who share Kompany’s ideals about the social project to invest in the youth of the capital city. Vincent Kompany himself, an example of how you can get from the streets of Brussels to the international top, will finance the club. He asked fans to make suggestions for the new name. A lot of response came, including some names indeed refering to the old RWDM (Racing White Bruxelles, Daring Brussels, … were amongst the suggestions). Some names were more generic (Atomium Brussels, FC Ket Brussels, Brussels United, Brussels City, Youth FC Brussels, …) and there were even the few joke suggestions such as "FC Brussels Sprouts" and "Laat de bal Marollen" (Marollen being a district in Brussels, but also a wordplay on "maar rollen" which means "let it roll"). In the end Kompany chose the new name BX Brussels.
BX is the abbreviation many youngsters in Brussels use to point at their city, it is a short name and sounds international. So at the end of the season FC Bleid will disappear as a name, and BX Brussels will start from scratch in 4th division next season.
Personally I’d say the choice may be wise: if you really want to start from zero, then don’t claim the legacy of a former club. The new name sounds brief, to the point, and neutral. This allows the club to not bear the history of any other club and indeed start from scratch. The one problem: the fans were hoping for an RWDM rebirth and will be bitterly disappointed to see the new name by no means refers to the old RWDM. Because of this reason too, RWDM 2003 (the amateur club at 8th level which would be annexed by FC Bleid end of this season) is no longer joining the project and will continue to play as a separate amateur club RWDM 2003.
So next year we have BX Brussels, a club which will have to start from zero in terms of recruiting fans, finding a stadium, choosing colours for the club, build its own identity. It is however a social project for the Brussels youth which received a lot of enthousiasm. RSC Anderlecht, where Kompany played before, has already promised to cooperate with BX Brussels and help Kompany to recruit young kids from the capital to get the youth program started. Knowing Kompany can build from zero without any legacy to bear, that the money is there, … it may very well be BX Brussels who has a bright future ahead in the shadow of giants RSC Anderlecht. A lot will depend if the initial target audience (the old RWDM fans) can be replaced by a new audience embracing the totally new team, if the club finds its own identity soon enough, … But the money and management is already there (it is still unsure which stadium will become the home of BX Brussels though).
Then we still have Union Saint Gilloise, FC Ganshoren and Leopold Uccle in the 3rd and 4th division. These clubs from the capital district look stable but also do not come across ambitious in terms of climbing in the hierarchy of the Belgian football. It seems for Union, they feel comfortable in third division. Ganshoren has survived in 4th division which was already a success for them, and only Uccle seems to show some ambition to grow to a higher level. They are fighting for a place in the playoffs for promotion to division 3 now.
Summarised the semi professional clubs that wanted to fill the void of RWDM and become a second big club in Brussels, all seem to have ended in total chaos, with nothing but shattered plans and illusions left behind. The chaos is complete if we realise that except for BX Brussels (and they have the cash only thanks to Vincent Kompany’s investment), the other ambitious clubs may not even survive financially. It seems the monopoly of Anderlecht on football in Brussels is not going to be challenged anytime soon.
Is the future of football in Brussels that bleak, then? Well, no. The nuance is that in the regional divisions (divisions 5 to 8) some amateur clubs are doing very well. Of course they have no short term ambitions to become semi professional and go to a higher level, but some clubs do indeed blossom in the amateur football.
RC Schaerbeek may be the best example. Just promoted from 6th division, the team is still in the running to promote a second year in a row and end up in 4th division. The title may be tricky to reach, but they are already sure of playoff participation. Their ground is very decent and still can expand, they have a large youth program and an attendance remarkably high for the standards of 5th division. So this club has potential for sure. Whether we can say the same about Crossing, the club they share their stadium with, is a question mark: just 1 year after its creation it is too early to see how this club will further develop.
Etoile Bruxelles Capitale, also in 5th division, had a season without any serious chances for promotion and without being in a concrete relegation worries. A worryless mid table season. They have the potential to do better next season, and their social role in Brussels youth football is still important.
In 6th division, clubs such as Blue Star Brussels (the club that broke off from Maccabi Brussels), FC Kosova Schaerbeek and RRC Boitsfort have the means to climb at least 1 more level and they are all in good positions for playoff qualification. Whether the ambition to grow already now is present or whether they prefer to do it slowly and remain at their current level for now, is something I am not sure of.
In 7th division we see several Brussels based clubs that can prepare for promotion. FC Saint Josse is almost sure to win its series and promote directly, they still did not lose a single game this season. In that same division, SC Ixelles (who played in nationwide series many decades ago) still can qualify for the playoffs. In another 7th division series, FC Black Star and Suryoyes (both from Neder-over-Heembeek in Brussels capital district) are in a two-horse race for winning the division and promoting directly to 6th division. A few spots below, Oviedo Asturiana Anderlecht still can reach the playoffs for promotion although this is unsure for now.
In 8th division, the only Dutch speaking club in the capital, Ritterklub Jette, seems to be unstoppable to promote directly and they also talked about improving their accomodation. Ambitions are high. RWDM 2003 (the amateur club claiming the legacy of the old RWDM) still has a chance to qualify for the playoffs for promotion. There is one serie (with only 11 teams, most being reserve teams) in 8th division with only clubs from the capital district. FC Moreda Uccle has the best odds to promote. Trabzon Schaerbeek and Etterbeek Armenia hope to reach the playoffs (the other teams who have a chance to do so are all reserve teams, such as Kosova B and the reserves of FC Saint Josse).
So football in Brussels at amateur level is doing fine, and Anderlecht is still leading the league in the highest division. With Vincent Kompany investing in the new team BX Brussels, hopes for a stable new club in the capital is growing. The problems are mainly those teams in 2nd and 3rd division who have been trying to fill the gap left by RWDM for years, all without success. The chaos seems to even become bigger and bigger, and fans stay at home in disillusion. FC Brussels will be happy if they get their license and can stay in 2nd division (which gives them a few months to get the club back on its feet and solve the internal disagreements), White Star Woluwe will already be happy if the club still exists next season, and FC Bleid gave up the dream to recruit the old RWDM fans and now focusses on a future as a de facto totally new club BX Brussels.