How did UEFA allow this wreck to reach the Champions League?
Jan Breydel Stadion - the home stadium of Brugge, which today will host Benfica, has long wanted to be reconstructed. The first plans appeared in 2007 but attempt to approve the construction were frustrated each time. Fans have been waiting for the arena's renovation for many years, but when the reconstruction failed once again this year, their patience may burst.
The stadium looks just awful. There's mold, exposed wires, and water running down the walls when it rains
The arena was built in 1975 and has since been reconstructed only once - to expand the number of seats before Euro 2000. Since then, "Jan Breydel" has become pretty worn - so much so that it is already dangerous to be there.
"Trash is falling, electrical cables are dangerously exposed, moss is hanging on the walls, the toilets stink because the 'shocks' are overflowing due to a poorly functioning drain, water runs down the walls when it rains heavily," fan Ives Boone of Task told NB Force 5, who with his task force has been solving problems during matches for many years.
"The stadium is no longer up to the modern demands of a spectator who has almost to wring out his coat in rainy weather," Boon added.
Due to constant smudges on some walls and moss mixed with mold - it looks creepy.
There is also a minimum of security in the stands. "Probably someone has to die here before we get a new stadium," the fan public "No Sweat No Glory" accompanies the photo of the stadium.
Fans are both angry and joking. "Available in the fan shop from tomorrow," writes the FC BrugesArmy public, attaching a photo of a helmet that will protect your head if any piece of the stadium falls off and flies into the stands.
The club has been fighting for a new stadium for 16 years. But in early February, Brugge was again denied - because of the locals
In the winter of 2020, Brugge finally received an environmental permit for the construction from the municipality, so in the spring, the club presented a preliminary design of the stadium to residents to collect their feedback and make adjustments based on them. In the summer, Brugge showed the adjusted structure of the arena: 40,000 seats (the stadium is now designed for 29,000 spectators), of which 12,000 are reserved for the fan section, a four-section LED screen above the central circle, stands with a slope of 35%, an area for autistic children, VIP restaurants overlooking the field - the club has collected everything that corresponds to ultra-modern European stadiums.
Residents, however, only cared a little about the angle of the tribune and the presence of restaurants - they were worried about the inconvenience on match days that residents of the Olympic Park area could experience due to the influx of fans. The club understood this very well, so during the second meeting, it focused on providing comfort for the locals: people were convinced that the walls of the stadium would not be visible from the windows - they planned to place it on the territory of the park to reduce the load from noise and light. In addition, Club Brugge presented a mobility plan focusing on transport distribution and fans' flow over time. For this, it was planned to adjust ticket prices depending on the time of arrival of fans at the stadium and to build a sales system so that fans would unite in car trips to the stadium. So, anyone who bought a ticket would receive a notification that his neighbor also plans to attend this match. Also, Club Brugge proposed to run 125 fan buses on the day of the games to relieve traffic in the vicinity of the arena and to limit the area around the stadium for parking.
The club gave the locals time to think again, indicating that they wanted to start construction as soon as possible so that the 2022/2023 season could begin with the new arena. Club Brugge explained that in a couple of years, Jan Breydel would be so worn that it would no longer be licensed by UEFA and would become unsuitable for the safe accommodation of fans and teams. In addition, the new stadium is essential for the club's commercial development: increased capacity and comfort will help boost both sponsorship and matchday revenues.
Permission from the government of Flanders (this is an area in northern Belgium, where Bruges is located) was received in the fall of 2021, but 16 residents, under whose leadership the project was developed, did not like it - they filed an appeal against this decision, which slowed down construction.
As a result, the Flemish Dispute Resolution Council annulled the decision, explaining that the government, when considering the project, "did not take into account the criticisms of residents enough." The people who appealed to the council were dissatisfied with the club's proposals to ensure the mobility of fans and organize parking.
Club Brugge's official statement:
"Despite the area's extensive involvement in the design, the permit was challenged by a handful of residents in an appeals process. The Board ruled that these appeals were valid and canceled the permit based on an interpretation of the parking standard in the Bruges Building Code, which we do not share. We note that after 16 years, plans to build a new stadium again faced an annulment by the court."
The names of the people who buried the fans' hopes for the new stadium were published on the Internet, after which threats of violence and even death rained down on them.
One of the opponents was surprised by this development: "I have absolutely nothing against the new stadium. Club Brugge is also entitled to this. But if you think logically, you quickly conclude that such a project is impossible here. Anderlecht recently came to visit, and it took me an hour and a half to get to my house, although usually, this journey takes several times less. What if some catastrophe breaks out here? Or will there be a fire somewhere? How are ambulances or firefighters supposed to pass here without hindrance? From a security and mobility point of view, this plan is just crazy. This place is suitable for a small club but not Club Brugge, which has tens of thousands of fans.
The Minister of the Environment of Flanders, Zuhal Demir, assured that she wants to find a solution and will invite interested parties as soon as possible. The municipal authorities are also ready to sit at the negotiating table. It is obvious to everyone in the city that the club and its fans need an updated and safe arena.
"We deeply regret this decision," Mayor Dirk De Foe said. "This is a major blow to the project. I didn't expect this. The verdict for the city council sounded like a bolt from the blue. UEFA has made it clear to me personally that the current stadium is, in fact, no longer suitable for European football. It is not only about safety but also the object: it is already outdated. Just because they know Club Brugge is working on a new stadium, UEFA is still turning a blind eye to everything."
Not only Brugge is suffering: Belgium could not build a new stadium for the national team and host Euro 2020 matches, although Brussels initially applied for it.