European football: Belgian FA under fire

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The Independent Online
The Belgian Football Union president, Michel D'Hooghe, said yesterday he might resign over the way the Union handled the nomination of the new national coach, Georges Leekens.

"One of my closest assistants thought he should leak it to the press and I cannot live with that... I take this very seriously and if it becomes clear the executive committee believes the president did something wrong, I'm willing to lay down my mandate," D'Hooghe said.

Leekens was coach of the surprise First Division leaders, Mouscron, when the Union approached him to replace Wilfried van Moer. News of his nomination was leaked to a newspaper on Tuesday, forcing the Union to sack Van Moer prematurely.

Belgian newspapers said D'Hooghe had been led to believe Mouscron would not object to the departure of Leekens. The First Division newcomers have a four-point lead over the title holders, Club Bruges. The case is particularly embarrassing for the Union, coming just before last night's match between Mouscron and Anderlecht.

Leekens first proposed to Mouscron he should combine the jobs of national and club coach until the end of the season, then said he would stay until after the Anderlecht game. But Mouscron, who learned of Leekens' new job only through the media, sacked him and slammed the Union for the way it had lured their coach away.

"If Leekens was still coaching us for the Anderlecht game, it would have meant we approved the trick the Union played on us," their general manager, Willy Verhoost, said. Mouscron also told the Union it wanted compensation for the loss of their coach, whose contract ran for three more seasons. "The Union will not get off so easily," Mouscron's chairman, Jean-Pierre Detremmerie, said.

Verhoost alleged the Union would never have dared to sign Leekens if he had been coaching Club Bruges or Anderlecht. "In full battle for the title we're being decapitated, precisely by the mother [the Union] of all clubs. Incredible," Verhoost said.