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Arnhem's Vitesse is the first professional Dutch football club to fall into the hands of foreign investors. Georgian investor Merab Jordania has bought the club which has been in financial dire straights for some time. Mr Jordania, who is a friend of Chelsea-owner Roman Abramovich, promises to make the Arnhem club Dutch champion within three years.
Vitesse is the Netherlands' second oldest professional football club. In 1984 it was taken over by Karel Aalbers, who had high aspirations for the club. In the 1988/1989 season, Vitesse was promoted into the premier league. Two years later, the club made its debut at the UEFA Cup. In the 1997/1998 season, Vitesse came third in the premier league.
But sporting success was not enough and in 1998 the team moved into the brand new Gelredome stadium, which seats 29,600 fans. The old stadium only had room for 8000 spectators.
The sky appeared to be the limit for a decade, until the club got into financial difficulties and Karel Aalbers was forced to resign following fraud allegations. After his departure in 2000, it became apparent that “FC Hollywood on the Rhine” as the club was once dubbed was seriously in debt. Gelderland's provincial council and the city council as well as influential business people in the region only just managed to rescue Vitesse from bankruptcy.
Since then the club has played to beat relegation rather than win the league. A 27-million euro debt was written off two years ago, but there were still fears for the club's financial future. The new owner Merab Jordania says these problems are a thing of the past as money is no object.
Merab Jordania has a turbulent past in the Georgian football and business world. He is a former Dinamo Tbilisi player and former chairman of the club. He has also been president of the Georgian football association and was once coach for the national team.
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide
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