Bondsparket shakes Gert Vande Broek, can he stay on as national coach at Yellow Tigers after this verdict?

Gert Vande Broek. — © BELGIUM

According to the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, Gert Vande Broek (56) has shown (mentally) transgressive behavior as a coach of the Yellow Tigers. The Disciplinary Board within Volley Vlaanderen will now “deliberate on an appropriate disciplinary sanction”. Can VdB stay on as national coach after this verdict?

Mark Vermeiren

In December 2021 Gert Vande Broek, national coach (and many more) in women’s volleyball since 2008, came under fire. In a VRT program, three ex-internationals testified about the brutal way in which he allegedly treated them. The fuss led to an investigation by the Bbonds public prosecutor’s office, which heard dozens of witnesses over the past year – mainly athletes, but also other people from the entourage. According to insiders, a significant number of players of three or four generations (including the current one) not only criticized his aggressive approach, but also targeted the way in which VdB had built up an unhealthy position of power through its many functions. Vande Broek not only acted as national coach (since 2008), but was also active at top division Kieldrecht, in the cabinet of sports minister Philippe Muyters, at KU Leuven and at the volleyball association.

Hypersensitive times

The big question after this ruling is whether Vande Broek can continue to function as national coach. In a time that is hypersensitive to all kinds of abuse of power and transgressive behavior, the conclusion of the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office makes the position of the 56-year-old Limburger quite shaky. To be clear: there is no question of physical or sexual transgressive behavior in this file.

In the fall-out of the VRT broadcast, Volley Vlaanderen had placed itself squarely behind the targeted national coach, but this report can change the situation radically. Quite a few witnesses reportedly praised his expertise and tactical insight, but at the same time criticized his brutal and humiliating approach, which led to a climate of fear.

The press release from Volley Vlaanderen states that the disciplinary council will “deliberate on a possible disciplinary sanction”, but the closing sentence from the report of the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office itself sounds a lot sharper: “The Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office will bring this case before the competent chamber of the Disciplinary Council. to claim an appropriate disciplinary sanction against Gert Vande Broek there.”

Best result ever

Under Vande Broek, Belgian women’s volleyball has enjoyed considerable success in the past ten years, including a third place at the 2013 European Championship. Last year at the World Cup, the Tigers finished ninth, their best result ever. The fact that talents had canceled at the time already indicated how controversial the national coach was. Some people already said that they would commit themselves to the national team under a new leader.

Vande Broek himself only wished to respond briefly. “I have taken note of the report of the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office and am pleased that the file is now in the hands of the disciplinary council. I remain confident that I will be able to prove my innocence before the council.” When we asked if he would be willing to apologize, there was no response.

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