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Design & Development

Royale Union Saint-Gilloise hits out over lack of backing for new stadium

Featured image credit: Royale Union Saint-Gilloise

Belgian Pro League football club Royale Union Saint-Gilloise (USG) has expressed its disappointment after local authorities in the Municipality of Forest refused to support plans for a new stadium.

In a statement, the club revealed that it had learned via reports in the media that its offer to build a new stadium in Forest had received a “negative response” from the mayor and the council. USG said it was “dismayed” by the decision.

The Brussels-based club last month publicly presented its vision for a new stadium for the first time. USG returned to the top tier for the 2021-22 campaign after 48 years away, eventually finishing as runner-up – a position it also currently occupies this season.

USG’s return to the top flight has led to renewed assessment of its situation, with the 8,000-capacity Stade Joseph Marien in Forest deemed unsuitable. The stadium opened in 1919 and was redeveloped between 2016 and 2018 but is now hampering the club’s ambitions.

The club revealed plans for a new stadium with a capacity of between 15,000 and 16,000 seats. The stadium would be built on underdeveloped land owned by the Municipality of Forest, but the council has not given backing to the project.

USG last month offered assurances that the Parc du Bempt, as well as the site’s current sports fields and surrounding green spaces, would remain intact. The potential for retail outlets and an on-site hotel, which was part of initial talks back in 2018, was also abandoned.

USG’s statement released this week suggests that the council had expressed opposition to a hotel, but the club reiterated that this was not included in its plans. The club, which made an offer of €3.5m (£3.1m/$3.8m) for the Parc du Bempt land, has now asked the Brussels government to intervene “as quickly as possible” so a solution can be reached.

Philippe Bormans, chief executive of USG, said: “For more than four years, we have been trying, through constructive consultation, to find a solution to the question of the stadium, which threatens the survival of our club.

“According to the PRAS (Regional Land Use Plan), the Bempt site is located in the appropriate sports and recreational area for the construction of a football stadium, the financing of this extremely ecological stadium is fully covered and mobility around this stadium has no difficulty.

“However, each time, we receive a negative response from the local majority parties Ecolo/Groen and PS. They do not recognise the problem of the current site, while they impose an additional tax on us, which by the way was created when the club was promoted to 1A, and adopt an unconstructive attitude every time.”

USG plans on fully financing the project, which will reportedly cost between €80m and €100m. No financial support will be requested from public authorities. The matter will be discussed at a municipal council meeting next Tuesday.

Last week, fellow Pro League team Club Brugge expressed its own frustration after efforts to deliver a new stadium that date back to 2007 were dealt another sizeable blow following the upholding of a complaint against an environmental permit granted in October 2021.