25 November ~ During the 1960s they were believed to be the richest club in the world, but today Feyenoord's coffers are empty. Last season they lost €14 million (£12m) even when the directors were already desperately cutting costs. The club are currently under permanent scrutiny of a financial commission of the Dutch FA, along with about ten other sides who have to balance their books before they can think of buying new players.
Recently a group of fans donated about €20m to settle the worst debts, which meant that Feyenoord can finish the season, but that won't be much help for technical director Leo Beenhakker. Don Leo can only sign free agents and this week he must have reached a new low by giving a trial to striker Jhon van Beukering, who has previously been released by second-level clubs SC Cambuur and Go Ahead Eagles.
The one consolation for the former European Cup winners is the unrelenting love of their supporters. Even after the devastating 10-0 defeat at PSV on October 24 – the club's worst-ever defeat – Feyenoord's stadium, the Kuip, was packed to the rafters three days later for the home game against relegation rivals VVV-Venlo. They won 3-0 in a tense affair, but have picked up only two points since. On Sunday there is a local derby against high-flying ADO Den Haag, followed by decisive meetings with Willem II, then their feeder club on the other side of the river, Excelsior, who have a €3m budget. To cap it all, there's a visit to Ajax just before Christmas.
This summer Feyenoord had to release experienced players like Roy Makaay and Denny Landzaat, to save on salaries. Now half their squad are straight from the Under-19 youth league. They are talented, but not equipped to fight for points – even at 7-0 down in Eindhoven they were playing as if it was an exhibition game. This is not a team to cope with the rough and tumble of a relegation battle. If results don't pick up, the fans might start to get anxious, which can make the Kuip quite a daunting place – many homegrown players have succumbed in the past before building decent careers elsewhere.
The Kuip itself is the biggest problem. It is completely out of date and generates hardly any matchday income from hospitality, leaving Feyenoord miles behind other European clubs financially. A modern, state-of-the-art ground was supposed to stage the World Cup final eight years from now. However, the chances of winning the 2018 bid have become slim, while the city of Rotterdam is having doubts about splashing out on a sports venue at a time of economic crisis. Feyenoord's current restructuring is based on promises that the new stadium would generate enough money to pay off their loans. Now that the future of the stadium is in doubt, the club's existence is on the brink as well. "We should fold up and continue under Excelsior's licence," said former chairman Jorien van den Herik recently. If much more goes wrong, it might be the only option left. Ernst Bouwes twitter.com/TotalfootballNL