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Legal

Vitesse loses GelreDome court case

Featured image credit: Arnhemcity12/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size

Dutch Eredivisie football team Vitesse Arnhem has said it is confident it will continue to play in the GelreDome next season, despite losing a court case concerning its long-running stadium lease deal dispute, which could ultimately threaten its existence as a professional club.

Vitesse initially opted to cancel its current lease agreement at the GelreDome back in September 2018 as it sought to strike a better deal to play at the stadium. Vitesse has called the GelreDome home since the stadium opened in March 1998, but currently holds subtenant status under an agreement with main tenant Exploitatiemaatschappij GelreDome and stadium owner, Amsterdam real estate company Nedstede Leisure Participaties.

The club’s current contract included a clause by which it would be extended by a further 20 years through to 2043. Ahead of a deadline of October 1, 2018, Vitesse activated a clause through which the current deal will effectively end on October 1, 2023.

Vitesse’s current agreement costs the club €2.15m (£1.89m/$2.29m) per year, but the club has said it offers “very limited operating options”. Vitesse also believes the contract is overpriced in the current marketplace and is instead said to be hoping to pay around €500,000 per year to play home matches at the venue.

Vitesse in January filed a lawsuit against Nedstede, but a preliminary ruling yesterday (Tuesday) went against the club. Vitesse said it is “considering next steps” after the judge’s verdict, with an appeal a potential option.

The club said in a statement: “Vitesse wants to emphasise that it will continue its efforts to resolve the stadium issue for the long term. The club hopes that the talks with the stadium owner and the operating company will have a concrete follow-up in the short term and will continue to adopt a constructive attitude. 

“This also requires the cooperation of the other parties, who have indicated on several occasions that they too are unabatedly willing to continue the discussion. The decision of the preliminary relief judge is provisional in nature. Vitesse has undiminished confidence in a positive outcome of the proceedings on the merits regarding the perpetual right to play. The club is therefore confident that it will play in GelreDome next season.”

The case has some degree of urgency with the Dutch Football Association (KNVB) having required confirmation from member clubs by yesterday of where they will play their home games during the 2023-24 season.

If Vitesse fails to comply it runs the risk of sanctions ranging from fines through to the ultimate punishment of the withdrawal of its professional club licence. Vitesse said it is in contact with the KNVB about the situation regarding the stadium case, while the governing body has played down the failure to meet the deadline.

A KNVB spokesperson told Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad: “There will not necessarily be a sanction now. This (yesterday’s news) means that a judgment is passed, but that the explanation of the judgment only follows later.

“In addition, Vitesse can possibly play the home games elsewhere, for example in a stadium of another professional football club, and therefore meet the licencing requirements.”