Cercle Brugge gains assurances over long-term stadium future

Belgian Pro League football club Cercle Brugge has reached a ‘framework agreement’ with the City of Bruges that is set to see it drop its opposition to its rival Club Brugge’s plans for a new stadium as it advances a scheme for a new home of its own.

The two teams are currently in the midst of complicated plans to move out of Jan Breydel Stadion (pictured) and into homes of their own. Club’s 15-year wait to secure a new stadium appeared to be nearing an end after the Flemish Government last month announced that it would grant an environmental permit for the project.

Club first discussed ideas for a new stadium back in 2007, but has faced numerous challenges in its efforts to develop at a number of sites. In October 2020, Club Brugge was dealt what was seen as potentially decisive blow in its efforts to develop a new stadium, with Belgium’s Council of State ruling that a facility for city rival Cercle could not be developed along Blankenbergse Steenweg.

Club decided in January 2020 to commit to demolishing and replacing Jan Breydel Stadion, which is owned by the City of Bruges. Cercle also plays at Jan Breydel Stadion, with a condition of a new stadium for Club being that its rival be provided with a new home on Blankenbergse Steenweg.

Following last month’s announcement, Cercle said it would “look at what further steps it will take”. This has now resulted in the framework agreement with the city council, in which Cercle says it has received written guarantees regarding its short and long-term stadium future.

Cercle Brugge president Vincent Goemaere said: “These guarantees mean that Cercle will always have the necessary professional infrastructure (stadium and practice fields), even after the expiry of the usage agreement for the current Jan Breydel site on June 30, 2023. In this way, the continuity of the Cercle Brugge is guaranteed for the A-team and the youth work as a professional team.”

Mayor of Bruges, Dirk de Fauw, added: “From the start of this legislature, this city council has been making great efforts to make progress in the Bruges stadium files. 

“In recent weeks we have shifted up a gear and intensive negotiations have been held with Cercle Brugge in order to reach a conclusive agreement and solution that all parties can agree, on the one hand, and where guarantees are given for the progress of the stadium projects on the other.

“Due to the uncertainty that currently prevails for the Blankenbergse Steenweg site, I understand the concerns of Cercle Brugge. We have made every effort from the City to meet all questions and concerns of Cercle Brugge.”

The agreement, which will be submitted to a December city council meeting for approval, contains various scenarios that may arise over the coming years. However, the City has stressed that it is committed to finding Cercle a suitable location for a new stadium, whether that be Blankenbergse Steenweg, or another site in Bruges territory. 

Alderman of Finance and Property, Mercedes Van Volcem, said: “The city council remains committed to finding a definitive location for a Cercle stadium as soon as possible. In the agreement we have already made concrete agreements regarding a possible leasehold of the land. Modalities have been laid down that will help Cercle Brugge in their search for private partners to build the stadium.”

The Council of State, Belgium’s supreme administrative court, has previously ruled that a stadium on the Blankenbergse Steenweg cannot be developed. The City and Cercle will apply again, with the Council of State expected to make a further ruling in spring 2022, and plans are being drawn up for both eventualities.

The framework agreement also includes a provision for Cercle to play at Club Brugge’s new stadium under a rental deal, until its new home is able to be delivered.

De Fauw added: “This is a particularly difficult and complex file. It is a search for balances, accords, support from many people involved and all this through a lot of emotion. 

“The most important thing is that we persist with a clear goal in mind: the city council wants a solution tailored to both football teams, so that they can continue their role as particularly valuable ambassadors for our city in ideal and contemporary circumstances. 

“This also benefits the image of our city. This important agreement allows us to continue to work together constructively on the future of our football teams. A plan is now on the table for the various scenarios so that we can now take further steps together.”

Image: Валерий Дед/CC BY 3.0/Edited for size