Roland Duchatelet has given an interview this week to journalists Erik Raspoet and Michel Vandersmissen of the Belgian magazine "Knack". We are grateful to Heather McKinlay for the translation:
Part 1: Football
A few days ago, entrepreneur Roland Duchâtelet was once again in the British press, from the tabloid The Sun to the institution of The Times. It was buzzing again at his London football club, Charlton Athletic. It turned out that the youth players no longer receive bottled water due to cutbacks.
Mr. Duchâtelet, what a harsh man have you become.
Roland Duchâtelet: (unperturbed) I drink only from the tap. Well, from now on they will also get water from the tap. They will not suffer thirst, and they will not play worse because of it. The club is making too many losses, so we need to pay more attention to the money. Moreover, it is an environmentally friendly measure.
What is a sober, rational entrepreneur actually looking for in football?
Duchâtelet: I've wondered about that myself too recently! (He laughs) It was a mistake. The football business doesn't suit me. Too irrational. If you want to lose real money, buy a football club. I've stumbled into it, as a sponsor at STVV.
Before you knew it, you owned more than five football clubs at home and abroad. Typical Duchâtelet? If you start something, do you take it all the way through?
Duchâtelet: Maybe, but it was mainly a question of efficiency. If you control five clubs, there are synergies, for example by allowing players to circulate from one club to another. I was one of the first to introduce that model. Meanwhile, many other clubs are doing the same, like Manchester City.
You certainly earned a great deal from the sale of Standard?
Duchâtelet: If only it was true. The only ones who really make good money in football are the agents. And the top players, of course, because internationalisation has pushed the wages of the players through the roof. You could call that scandalous, but that is the market. Football represents half of the world sports market, including tennis and the NBA (American profbasketball).
Will you sell all your clubs?
Duchâtelet: That's the intention, but I'm not in a hurry. Investing in football was the mistake of my life, but at the same time it was an interesting sociological experiment. The parallels with politics are striking. They are two worlds where emotions win over logical thinking.
On several occasions, you have openly been annoyed about the corruption in football. Is it so bad?
Duchâtelet: Especially in south eastern Europe there is gambling on competitions and match fixing. But in Western Europe it happens little or not at all.
And in Belgium?
Duchâtelet: Think back to the last matches of Moeskroen, the previous seasons. The investigation following KV Mechelen's complaint has stopped, but I do not think that the public prosecutor's office has investigated the case very thoroughly.
As the owner of football clubs, you have been put through the mill, first in Liège and then in London. Does that play a role in getting out of football?
Duchâtelet: The protests of the supporters don't really affect me, because I understand that they don't really know me, don't know what really happened and rely on social media and unscrupulous newspapers looking for thrills. My conclusion is that the recipes from the business world are totally unsuccessful in football.
So it would have been better if Marc Coucke had not bought Anderlecht?
Duchâtelet: Not if it is his intention to make money from it. I do think, however, that the investment fits into a broader strategy. Coucke wants to become a major player in the Belgian entertainment sector. Anderlecht fits in the list of Pairi Daiza and Durbuy
Part 2: Economy, including swipe at teachers and casual racism towards Portuguese cobble-layers.