September 30, 2022

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Consumers instead of supporters: How Americans want to change Belgian soccer

Consumers instead of supporters: How Americans want to change Belgian soccer

American investors and companies are taking over more and more Belgian clubs. Sports/Voetbalmagazine went in search of their intentions and what do they want to do here? They believe that the proponent’s noble idea must be replaced with others.

‘The Americans look at us like Neanderthals,’ laughs Jesse de Breter, a lawyer representing Roberto Martinez’s interests in Belgium. “For them, the European market is largely unexplored territory because the business policy in Europe is completely different from that of sports franchises in the United States.” On the other side of the Atlantic, a match is an event that starts before the first whistle and continues after the final whistle. A broker who regularly meets with one of his clients who plays for a club in the MLS sums it up this way: ‘On the field, the level is not always as high as the Belgian first division, but everything around it is on par with the Champions League.’

For example, work on the Mallorca stadium, initiated by owner Robert Sarver (who owns the Phoenix Suns) will provide a wider gap between the rows of seats so that fans can reach them more easily. Drinks and food stalls without disturbing the neighbors too much. His inspiration comes straight from the States, and the club’s ground has shops, restaurants and other things to ensure that families want to spend a whole day in and around the stadium. And – of course – consume as much as possible there.

Americans see us as Neanderthals. For them, the European market is a largely unexplored territory.

“Whether you have the infrastructure or not makes a big difference,” explains Juan Argunicas. La ternier heure. ‘Above all, you can improve the experience of supporters and business partners.’ The financial logic associated with a stadium is never far away for American owners, who often blink to discover that most stadiums are only used for an hour and a half every fortnight, when they use those 365 days a year.

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“In America, the average stadium visitor is a consumer, in Europe he is a supporter,” explains Antoine Cobbin. He was introduced to American culture at a young age, but knows that blindly transferring the American model to the world of European football is often a pitfall. While they’ve taken advantage of Freediel’s reliance on the Challenger Pro League to improve fans’ consumption options — including a self-serve system to avoid queues — there’s a common guideline: respect for local culture. ‘Americans often think that what works for them will work in Europe, but it doesn’t.’

Read the full report in this month’s Sport/Wotball magazine or In our plus zone.