Vitesse Arnhem face fight to survive after relegation confirmed

Vitesse's stadium in Arnhem. Photo: Depositphotos

Vitesse Arnhem face a battle to start next season after the club was relegated by the Dutch football association for breaching the terms of its professional licence.

Vitesse were penalised 18 points after the KNVB’s licensing committee ruled it had failed to deliver accurate half-yearly results or to clarify its relationship with Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

An investigation by the Guardian newspaper and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) uncovered documents that appeared to show that Abramovich, the former owner of Chelsea, secretly invested more than €100 million in Vitesse.

The KNVB said last Friday it had concluded its own investigation into the relationship between Abramovich and Vitesse’s Russian owner, Valery Oyf, who has been trying to sell the club since the invasion of Ukraine began.

Last week’s ruling leaves Vitesse in last place on minus 1 points and confirms their relegation from the Eredivisie after a 35-year unbroken spell.

Interim director Edwin Reijntjes said the club would not appeal against the points deduction and concentrate on securing its professional licence so it can play in the Keuken Kampioen Divisie next season.

Penalty “inevitable”

“Although this is a black day for everyone and everything that cares about Vitesse, it is the cold hard reality. A sanction on this scale was inevitable.

“On the other hand, and I want to make this clear to everyone, we are hugely grateful for the chance we have been given to retain our licence, even if it is hanging by a narrow thread. It is clear from the response of the licensing committee that they have confidence in the club’s new direction.”

Vitesse’s financial woes have been compounded by a failed bid to take over the club by US-based investor the Common Group, led by Coley Parry, who has lent the club around €15 million to stay afloat.

The KNVB blocked the bid on the grounds that there were too many doubts about the sources of Common Group’s funding.

The governing body earlier imposed a €100,000 fine on Vitesse for failing to tell the licensing committee that it had ended its relationship with its bank, Revolut.

Emergency plan

Vitesse has drawn up an emergency plan that does not include any role for Parry, who is now trying to reclaim his money from a club whose budget will be significantly reduced following relegation.

In the last 35 years Vitesse finished as high as fourth in the Eredivisie, won the Dutch cup in 2017 and regularly qualified for European competition. As recently as 2022 it reached the last 16 of the UEFA Conference League, losing to AS Roma.

This season the club has won just four league matches and lost 6-0 to likely champions PSV Eindhoven in its last outing on March 13.

There had been some doubts about whether Vitesse would complete the season, but the team is now expected to play the final four fixtures, rounding off with a home match against Ajax on May 19.

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