A South Korean sports marketing firm has purchased a Belgian football club.
Sportizen, a Seoul-based sports marketing company, on Monday signed off on a deal to acquire the second-division Belgian club A.F.C Tubize.
The company claimed it is the first South Korean firm to take over a European professional football club. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
Located in the city of Tubize, about 25 kilometers south of the Belgian capital of Brussels, A.F.C Tubize was founded in 1989 when two clubs, FC Tubize and Amis Reunis de Tubize, merged. The club has mostly played in the second division, and last played in the first division in the 2008-2009 season.
Sportizen, which has organized golf tournaments and represented golfers and footballers, said it wanted to delve into a new arena in its field.
"We've been preparing for this sort of business model for more than five years," said Shim Chan-koo, CEO of Sportizen, at the signing ceremony held in Seoul. "At first, we had several clubs in the fold, and we've been able to build trust with A.F.C Tubize and their management."
Shim added he liked Belgium's location as the center of Europe and also the fact that the Belgian pro leagues don't impose a cap on the number of foreign players that each club can acquire.
Shim said he'd like to help South Korean prospects reach Europe through A.F.C Tubize, but insisted Sportizen didn't acquire the club just to put young players in Belgium.
"Our motivation behind the decision was to create a new business model in the sports industry," the CEO said. "We're in talks with potential corporate partners who could help us run the club, and we haven't ruled out the possibility of selling the naming rights."
Sportizen will be the largest shareholder of the A.F.C Tubize and the club's current management will stay put, Shim said.
"We plan to acquire a couple of South Korean players, either in a full transfer or on a loan, by the end of this month (when the summer transfer window in European football closes)," Shim added.
"We will try to help A.F.C. Tubize earn promotion to the first division and have a chance to compete in big club tournaments in Europe." (Yonhap)