For the fourth consecutive season, AA Gent is in the red. In the past financial year, Ghent will have suffered a loss of 19.2 million euros. This is evident from the soon-to-be published annual accounts, which cover the period from July 2022 to June 30, 2023. Over the past decade, since the construction of the new stadium, the Buffaloes have never dipped deeper into the red. In fact, last year the loss turned out to be greater than the three difficult financial years before, when just under 14 million euros in losses were suffered, partly due to corona. The equity of 16.5 million euros – in other words, the accumulated savings pot – completely melted away last season.
An important nuance is that Ghent was taken over by Sam Baro three weeks after the end of this financial year. The new owner pumped 23 million euros into the club, which means that the Buffaloes once again have a nicely filled piggy bank. Moreover, he adds nuance: ‘That financial year is first and foremost a snapshot. If we sell a striker on June 29 for 20 million, there will be no 19.2 million euro loss. If we sell a striker on July 2, the loss will be there,” says Baro.
‘When I started the process, I knew about these figures. The main reason is that there was not heavy selling. We didn’t sell a striker for 20 million. Belgian clubs, not just AA Gent, can only balance their accounts by selling players. This summer we decided to give priority to sport.’
Dare to sell
After selling Jonathan David in 2020 and Roman Jaremchuk in 2021, Ghent decided in the summer of 2022 not to sell top scorer Tarik Tissoudali. This partly explains the loss in the past financial year, although in January we said goodbye to Ibrahim Salah (6.5 million) and Andreas Hanche-Olsen (2.5 million). Last summer, Orban or Cuypers were also not used to further fill the wells. However, the wage bill has already been significantly reduced. Joseph Okumu (12 million) and Alessio Castro-Montes (2 million) also left, although they served to finance the arrival of players such as Brown, Watanabe, Kandouss and Gandelman.
“The time when rich sugar daddies pumped in endless money is over,” says Baro. ‘That was possible for a while during corona, but now it is no longer possible due to the Financial Fair Play. The model in Belgium is therefore simple: clubs must dare to sell at the right time to cover operating losses. Unless you play champion and rake in the money from participating in the Champions League. But as a club you cannot budget for that.’
AA Gent is currently still participating on three fronts: it is third in the league, is still active in the cup and leads its group in the Conference League. Baro hopes that his club will continue to prosper sportingly and can play ‘at a higher European echelon’ next season. ‘Where players are even more in the spotlight.’ The fact is that the core is now younger than in previous seasons and good profits can be made with the sale of players such as Hong, Orban, Cuypers, Brown, Fofana.
Because at AA Gent they do not intend to suffer such a heavy loss again in the current financial year. “It is clear that we may sell players before June 30,” says Baro. So already in the coming January? ‘Yes, if there is an opportunity. But only if we get a sale completed correctly, without the sporting aspect suffering. Otherwise we wouldn’t do that.’