From demanding more transparency to being called a “rotten apple”: this was Peter Bossaert’s policy as CEO of the football association

“The union is full of norms and conflicts of interest. Now say for yourself: how can you ask people in the field to respect the rules if you don’t radiate that yourself? There is a total lack of self-criticism in the union.” With those words, Peter Bossaert came in four and a half years ago as chairman of the football association. To be clear: his ‘State of the Union’ comes just after the outbreak of Operation Clean Hands.

Bossaert, a good acquaintance of Club Brugge chairman and then vice-chairman of the association Bart Verhaeghe, is brought in as ex-CEO of Medialaan to commercialize the Red Devils more after the successful World Cup in the summer of 2018. He is already the third CEO three years after interim pope Koen De Brabander and Steven Martens, but immediately ends up in the middle of a scandal. One of his first policy actions is therefore the reform of the regulations and a new code of ethics and notification obligation for referees.

Diversity and moving to Tubize

He comes up with an ambitious eleven-point plan to modernize the union that – oh irony – insists on transparency and good governance. He also wants to invest heavily in diversity, with an ‘inclusion manager’, a ‘diversity board’ and a ‘national chamber for discrimination and racism’. On top of a hotline for those who want to report cases of racism and discrimination. He also repeatedly expressed his disgust at the allocation of the World Cup to Qatar and told our newspaper that he was “not satisfied with the way FIFA is being run”.

Bossaert installs a women’s quota on the board of directors, drastically increases investments in women’s football and is reportedly watching with glee when Paul Van den Bulck is elected as the new chairman of the association in mid-2022. Van den Bulck is even called ‘Bossaert’s candidate’, because the Congolese roots of the new chairman fit in perfectly with his diversity policy. Bossaert thinks – rightly so – that some population groups were underrepresented in the union summit.

On the side of union chairman Paul Van den Bulck. — © BELGIUM

Bossaert’s greatest achievement is probably the move of the football association to Tubize, where a brand new training complex with players’ hotel was built for the national team. Although this is also criticized, because it is partly financed with 4.3 million euros that the union received from the European football association UEFA. That amount was actually intended to help the clubs get through the corona crisis.

Called “rotten apple” by fired federal prosecutor

It would not be the only point of criticism of Bossaert’s regime. A number of points of his ambitious plan would end in complete failure. For example, David Elleray and Bertrand Layec appoint two expensive foreign advisers to improve our arbitration, but that does not do much. Elleray even has to be suspended for a while when he is discredited in an investigation into employee harassment, in which he is eventually acquitted. He has since resigned and moved to South Africa.

Kris Wagner, the Federal Attorney with a Harvard diploma, is also suspended after being appointed by Bossaert. Wagner then sent an open application to the RBFA to become CEO himself and called Bossaert “a bad apple” in an interview with this newspaper. “Having too strict a policy or not being in line enough and not being a yes-man cannot possibly be a reason to shove a federal prosecutor aside,” he says.

Chris Wagner. — © BELGIUM

Bossaert is also called to order by his own Board of Directors when he fiercely criticizes the decision of the Belgian Court of Arbitration for Sport to grant Mouscron a license in mid-2020. They do not think it is smart that Bossaert did not await the motivation of the BAS or consult with them. For the CEO of the football association, the Mouscron case would be reason to reform the licensing procedure.

Struggles with Board of Directors about Martinez

And then there is the Golden Generation Arena, an ambitious project to renovate the current King Baudouin Stadium. Unfortunately: there is not much political will and the plan would die a quiet death. In the meantime, Bossaert is also the man who negotiates with Roberto Martinez and who came up with the dual job national coach-technical director. He gives the Spaniard a contract extension until after the 2022 World Cup, but then delays in breaking his contract again before the start of the tournament.


The Board of Directors of the football association is now questioning the way in which Martinez is being evaluated and feels passed over by the CEO. In December, when it turns out that a new national coach will have to be found, Bossaert admits to the Belga press agency that it has been “tumultuous days” at the union. “Just like the group discussion at the Red Devils, it has done us well as the board of directors to name things and talk them out,” he then says. The latter did not succeed this time.

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