Similar to the professional soccer arena, an increasing number of Belgian amateur clubs are falling under the ownership of foreign investors. Flemish Sports Minister Ben Weyts (N-VA) has

introduced a strategy to prevent Flemish amateur soccer from being transformed into what he describes as "farm leagues" – mere stepping stones in a larger player and resource cycle, as reported by De Morgen on Friday.

Initially, Weyts expressed reservations about foreign investment in Flemish amateur clubs. However, his perspective shifted when Saudi investors acquired Diest football club with the intention of investing in the training center. In response, the minister has formulated a three-fold plan to safeguard Flemish amateur soccer from becoming farm leagues.

Financial Health of Clubs

The first facet of the plan focuses on the financial stability of the clubs. Weyts highlights that the nine highest-level Flemish amateur clubs collectively incurred a loss of €3.7 million. He notes that many clubs also exhibit negative equity, making them more susceptible to investment offers.

Support with Investment Evaluations

Additionally, the minister intends to assist clubs in evaluating investment proposals. He emphasizes that the Royal Belgian Football Association and the amateur governing body, Voetbal Vlaanderen, possess the necessary knowledge and expertise for in-depth assessments.

Mandatory Inclusion of Club-Trained Players

There is a proposal currently pending before the European Court of Justice to examine whether clubs can be mandated to include a minimum number of club-trained players in their lineups, thereby promoting in-house youth development.

To prevent excessive foreign influence in Flemish amateur football, multiple stakeholders advocate for anchoring this aspect of the sport at the local level. Specific changes are yet to be determined, but there is a notable consensus among political parties on this matter. Photo by Spotter2, Wikimedia commons.