Although he is no stranger to unrest, criticism and large-scale projects, in his twenty years as chairman of AFC, Ad Westerhof has never experienced anything as tense as the current refurbishment. Now the first foundations have been laid, the run-up to the laying of five new artificial grass pitches and the construction of a new clubhouse has at last come to an end. During that period everybody wanted to have a say, but there were also practical challenges. AFC is the largest club in Amsterdam, with 2,200 members and 127 teams. The club not only has an illustrious past, but also has to have a future and in Ad Westerhof’s opinion in order to secure that future, something had to happen. “If you come down here on Saturday, it’s chaos.”
In the words of AFC chairman Ad Westerhof, “This is beyond my wildest dreams”
The ‘Goed Genoeg’ sports park, the home of AFC, is to get new pitches and a new clubhouse. AFC chairman, Ad Westerhof, is happy that work has started because the preparation process was long and caused much debate.
Despite that the new sports park is going to be slightly smaller.
“We now have seven pitches and we are getting five. These are all going to be artificial grass pitches, otherwise we won’t be able to fit in enough matches. You can play for loads more hours on artificial grass. We’d like to have a proper grass pitch, but the immediate consequence would be that at least twenty teams would have to be scrapped. The higher teams think they should not have to play on artificial grass. But we don’t have any choice.”
Lots of members means lots of opinions.
“The fact is our members are extremely critical. You have to evade all kinds of tackles on your way to the finish, and that’s precisely what we are doing. And believe it or not, the clubhouse is now being built. Two years ago I wouldn’t have dared to dream that we would get this far. Nevertheless, all the cogs in machine have to keep working together. All those people have a view. On top of that we’re a voluntary organisation. You have to listen to everyone and take everyone into account.”
The municipality has always said that it wanted to create a base for AFC in Zuidas. Would you not have preferred a different location?
“I’m prepared to discuss any of the options, but then it has to be a realistic alternative. As long as that’s not the case, there’s nothing to discuss. As Labour politician Jan Schaeffer once said, “You can’t live in chitchat”. Similarly, you cannot play football in plans. We’ve been talking about relocating for the past 25 years. Some people have been involved in the process all those years. Those are the ones that are saying that they now actually want to see a new clubhouse built. Now, at last, the building work has started. However, we have to realise that it’ll never be exactly as you think. Things always change along the way. Not everyone can cope with that. It is quite difficult to then get everyone moving in the same direction.”
How much inconvenience is the club going to experience from a year of building work?
“We have to keep five pitches available at all times so, when one pitch is done, it will be the turn of another. We’re starting with the main pitch and the clubhouse. By the time we are able to play football on the new main pitch, the clubhouse will still not be ready, but the current main pitch will then become unavailable. Everything then shifts up.”
Has the club noticed that more and more people are moving to Zuidas?
“We’ve always attracted Zuidas residents, but if you have 2,200 members and 100 new ones join, you tend not to notice it so much. A lot of expats live here. You do see them around, but they have the same problem as everyone else, we’re not admitting any more members.”
Homes are going to be built on part of our current location. Will the future residents not be able to join your club?
“When the time comes, the situation is bound to have changed again. At the moment, I don’t think we have room for any more members. It would mean using the pitches even more intensively. We’re now going from 7 to 5 pitches, but we should really have 9. The problem is that extra space is expensive. We’ve concluded a contract with the municipality for 25 years, with a further 25 optional years. That’s quite a lot. But honestly I don’t think we’re going to need all of them. The land here is worth between 850 million and 1 billion euros. There will come a time that someone says that it’s a bit strange for that land to be used by a private football club with a fence around it. But that’s what we have agreed for the time being. So we’re just going to get on and play football.”