Dutch side Den Bosch were tricked by TV show “PowNews” as a ‘fake sheikh’ investigated how far they would go to sell the soul of their club.
The Eerste Divisie side, who last year renamed their Stadion De Vliert due to a sponsorship deal with the BrainWash hair salon company, appeared willing to make wholesale changes to secure a deal.
An undercover video shows the ‘Al Massir Group’ -- represented by the ‘sheikh,’ Rashid bin Abdulaziz al Massir, and a sidekick -- negotiating with the club over a potential investment of up to 50 million euros.
In order for the deal to proceed, the sheikh requested that head coach Ruud Kaiser be dismissed; that the club’s name be changed to Dragons den Bosch; that their colours be altered; that the club would make illicit payments for transfers; that homosexual players would not be signed; that alcohol would be banned at the stadium; and that separate entrances for men and women would be built.
The Den Bosch representatives raised no issue with the sheikh’s requests during the meeting, and email correspondence -- written in English and released by the TV company -- saw the director of the club, Fred van der Hoorn, speak positively about the talks, saying they were “too good to be true.”
After a fortnight of correspondence, the Den Bosch president, Maarten de Gruyter, intervened to raise his objections.
“Although anxious to improve the overall level of our club by partnering up with a respectable and influential foreign investor, we’re also very restrained in changing our club traditions,” De Gruyter wrote.
He also raised questions over the investors' identity, saying he was surprised not to have been able to find information on the Al Massir Group online and that neither the Dutch consulate in Dubai nor his Dubai-based business associates were aware of the company or the sheikh.
Van der Hoorn, the Den Bosch director involved in the email correspondence, has since told Omroep Brabant that the club had never believed the investors were genuine.
“We knew all along it was a joke,” he said. “We sent a volunteer to the talks because we were onto them. There were email exchanges but we never took them seriously.”
Van der Hoorn accepted that the coach and players may require explanations for the matter, however.
“We will have to remedy this,” he said. “If the board decide I have to leave my post, I will accept that.”
Despite his concerns over the squad, the players appear to have taken the incident in good humour. Den Bosch midfielder Benjamin van den Broek posted a picture of his teammates on his Twitter account saying: “We as a group of players are ready for the takeover.”
— Benjamin vd Broek (@Benjivdb) December 10, 2013
Den Bosch are currently 14th in the Dutch second division.