Royal Antwerp Football Club - est 1880
Royal Antwerp FC, founded by English students way back in 1880, may very well be regarded as ‘the most English club’ in Belgium. Does the name ring any bells? Then you may also know that, at Royal Antwerp, football history still means something. The oldest club of Belgium has an impressive list of ‘firsts’, both on a Belgian and a European level, accomplishments, accolades and many, many more stories to boot. Therefore it comes as no surprise that the fans of the club proudly wear its nickname ‘The Great Old’ as a badge of honour.
The arena that the club has called its home for the past 90 years is named ‘De Bosuil’. Once again you don’t need to look far for either history or, for that matter, a link to the British Isles. The stadium is one of Belgium’s oldest still in use today. It’s inaugural game was a friendly between Belgium and… England. A fun fact: it’s also the place where England suffered its first draw on the European continent.
Wembley '93 - Cup Winners Cup
However, in spite of its proud history our club has never needed a large trophy room. Its last European success was 21 years ago, when we played Parma AC in the Cup Winners Cup final at the grandest stage of all: Wembley. Back then, no less than twenty thousand fans clad from head to toe in red and white followed their heroes over the Channel. Parma won that game 3-1, but sportsmanship of the highest order was shown by that very same twenty thousand, who congratulated the Parma players with their victory as if they were their own.
Looking for Eric.
In 1999 Royal Antwerp looked across the Channel once again and signed a deal with Manchester United. Since then the club has, in many cases, been a crucial stage in the development of young Mancunian talent. Players like John Evans, Frazier Campbell, Danny Simpson and even the Chinese wonder boy Dong Fanghzou played for Royal Antwerp. Both Ritchie De Laet, and more recently, Charni Enkagame prove that the deal works both ways as they made the reverse move: from Antwerp to Manchester United. A clear sign that the cooperation between the two clubs can lead to success.
Success, however, can be fleeting and Royal Antwerp proved exactly that when we were forced to celebrate our 120th anniversary with relegation to Belgium’s second division in 2000 . We made it back soon after, but the revival was short-lived. 2014/15 will be our eleventh consecutive season in the second division, and once again a notable anniversary (135th) is rolling around with a grim outlook for the future.
We could have added a raft of dates, facts and anecdotes, but we’ll refrain – the point is that we are proud of our club and its history, unhappy that it has been so badly mismanaged in recent times, and unwilling to accept any more. We need to build a better future for our club, one that places us, the fans, at its heart.
We honestly believe that such a future is not impossible for Royal Antwerp. In fact, today, we are more confident than ever that it’s the only option if our club is to survive, and flourish once again. It will take time, a lot of hard work from volunteers and, if you are still reading, from you. You can help by either using the hashtag #reviveRAFC or by becoming a supporting member. And believe us when we say that your help is very much appreciated.
Over the years Royal Antwerp had to battle through many hardships and yet the fans have always stayed loyal. A combination of circumstances or bad decisions from past administrations have led our club to the situation it finds itself in now. Trapped in a highly unprofitable division, highly in debt to a lot of people, the future looks indeed very bleak.
Yet there is one thing that Royal Antwerp has at its disposal: a lot of fans. Belgian football as a whole isn’t very profitable, in fact only three or four clubs (Anderlecht, Club Brugge, Standard) can put out the numbers (both financially and in terms of fans) to keep up with Europe’s bigger leagues. Royal Antwerp, and we assure you that this is not overstated, is the sleeping fifth giant. Even after ten years of second division football, we still manage to leave most clubs that play in the first division in our wake when it comes to attendance figures. We believe that this shows once more that we, the fans, are indeed the club’s lifeline and future!
Football In The Community.
With the local community firmly behind us, the help of Supporters Direct Europe and many great examples of fan participation in clubs all over Europe we are sure we can achieve lasting change. We believe that football without fans is nothing, and we are the only constant in football. Of course this is not just something that makes Royal Antwerp special – it connects football fans over the world. That is exactly why we make this plea to you, from one football fan to another. Because make no mistake, Royal Antwerp, is in dire need of help – your help.
Our aim is both simple and complex: to achieve majority ownership of our club, following the 50+1 examples from Germany and Sweden. Only then can we start rebuilding our beloved club with one common goal: whatever decision that has to be made, Royal Antwerp always comes first!
One fan, one vote
We have united under a supporters trust named ‘Act as 1’, both as a reference to our unity and the number we received from the Belgian Football Association for being the first official club in Belgium. Our philosophy is simple: one fan, one vote – and with that in mind we are working to take back our club, and give it the brighter it (and we, the fans) deserve.
Of course, this will not be an easy task, and we need every bit of help we can get. That’s why we are asking football fans from all over the world to become supporting members, and spread the word of our mission by using the #reviveRAFC hashtag.
From everyone in our supporters trust we can only say:
Thank you and ACT as ONE!