The Organisation of Belgian and Dutch Professional Football: the Place of “Stepping Stone” Leagues in the New Football League Hierarchy Post-Bosman

The Organisation of Belgian and Dutch Professional Football:  the Place of “Stepping Stone” Leagues in the New Football League Hierarchy Post-Bosman

Wednesday 21st April 2010 at 6pm
B33 Lecture Theatre
Main Building, Birkbeck College
Torrington Square
London WC1E 7HX
(For directions please see the pdf map).

Given by:

Professor Trudo Dejonghe
Lessius Business College (Catholic University Leuven), Belgium


Football in the Low Countries (Belgium and the Netherlands) was, as in many other countries, introduced by British immigrants. Both countries share a lot of commonalities in football: the origin of the game was similar and they both stuck to the amateur principle until the introduction of professionalism in the 1970’s; their leading clubs enjoyed significant sporting successes in European football in the 1970s and 1980s, but are now perceived as “Stepping Stone” leagues for high quality developing players aiming to move to careers in the Big 5 leagues – England, France, Germany, Italy and France. In this presentation leading Belgian sports’ economist Professor Trudo Dejonghe analyses the place of Belgian and Dutch football in the modern European football environment.

He begins his analysis with a short overview of the origin and history of football in both countries He then goes on to discuss the league structure organisation and function of the governing bodies in each country with a particular focus on outlining (1) revenue and profitability trends, and (2) player labour migration trends both into and out of both countries and how these have been influenced by, amongst other factors, tax law. Finally, he explores the significance of the major shocks in the football environment – the Bosman ruling and the multiplication of media revenues – and what these have meant for the present and future position of Belgian and Dutch football. He also addresses recent controversies in the leagues; notably the winding up of Jupiler Pro League (Belgian 1st Division Club) club Royal Excelsior Mouscron in December 2009 and its expulsion from the league mid-season following bankruptcy and its inability to complete three fixtures in a row.

In the new millennium, the professional football system in the Low Countries faces major new challenges. Both leagues have strong disadvantages in the new economic environment with an open labour market in a closed product market i.e. there is a clear incentive for talented labour to leave to play in more lucrative leagues. Due to the increase in the importance of broadcasting rights in club budgets, clubs from both nations have a competitive disadvantage against clubs from the Big 5 – England, France, Germany, Italy and France – and indeed from clubs from emerging football markets like Russia, Turkey and Poland. Nevertheless Professor Dejonghe argues that new innovations and sources of income should keep the Belgian and Dutch clubs reasonably competitive at European level. Key sources of competitive advantage include the high domestic popularity of the game in both countries, as manifested in high match attendance; and the willingness of state authorities to co-operate in the improvements in stadia construction.



  • Dr Trudo Dejonghe is Professor of Economics, International Economics, and Sports’ Economics at the Lessius University College, Antwerp, (Catholic University of Leuven), and a Guest Professor of Sports Economics at the Vrije Universiteit Brussels in Belgium and Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. He has researched and published extensively in the areas of restructuring football leagues and the necessity for the modernisation of football stadia infrastructure as part of a successful club business strategy. He has published a number of books in Dutch on sports economics with Arko Sportsmedia Nieuwegein. With Butterworth-Heinemann (2009) he has co-authored a book on sports economics – Sport Economics: Theory, Evidence & Policy, with Paul Downward and Alistair Dawson. Because of his economic and geographical research background he also published a book, Sport in de Wereld (Sport in the Global Space), with Academia Press Gent.

Contact Details

Birkbeck Sport Business Seminar Series Contact Details

For further details on the seminar series contact:

Sean Hamil
Department of Management
Birkbeck College
Malet Street

Tel: 020-7631 6763

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