Johan Cruyff regains control at Ajax as entire board steps down
Club icon Johan Cruyff can now finally implement his technical revolution at the Dutch giants over a year after initially returning to instigate changes he believed would enable Ajax to compete again.
The entire supervisory board will resign from the club including Cruyff, although he is expected to still influence policy in an unofficial role, following a Dutch appeals court decision to uphold an original ruling in December that prevented Louis van Gaal and Martin Sturkenboom from being appointed directors at Ajax.
The verdict was in favour of Cruyff who took legal action – along with a dozen coaches – against the four other members of the supervisory board over the appointment of Van Gaal in November as chief executive, Danny Blind as football director and Martin Sturkenboom as commercial director. Cruyff believed the appointments were made illegally as he was not informed of the vote, a legal right he had as the fifth member of the supervisory board.
Interim directors Blind and Sturkenboom resigned after the appeals court upheld the initial ruling believing that they could not function in their roles without Van Gaal.
“I have a clear vision on the future of Ajax and this is consistent with the possible arrival of Louis van Gaal. Now, as he is not coming, I myself cannot continue,” said Blind.
Van Gaal had been due to work alongside Blind and Sturkenboom as part of a new leadership structure. Van Gaal had hoped to take up the role this summer after taking a year-long break from the game following his sacking as Bayern Munich manager last summer. Van Gaal held the position of sporting director at Ajax in 2004.
The voluntarily resignation by the entire supervisory board (although not immediately due to contractual limitations) will enable the former Barcelona coach to apply changes to the youth setup and control the technical heart of the club as he had initially intended. The supervisory board consisting of Steven ten Have, Johan Cruyff, Edgar Davids, Marjan Olfers and Paul Römer will leave as soon as there are new members available with no timeline set yet.
The current board of directors (Jeroen Slop and Henri van der Aat) led by Hennie Henrichs will now nominate new members. The Ajax Members’ Council, the largest shareholders with 73 per cent, will have final approval of appointing new members. Crucially the Ajax Members’ Council is expected to once again support the club legend – who won three European Cups and 10 league titles as an Ajax player and the Cup Winners’ Cup as Ajax manager – to ensure the appointments of candidates with the same vision as Cruyff.
The long-running dispute between Cruyff and the four other members of the Ajax supervisory board (who run the club after the board of directors resigned in protest at Cruyff’s original plans), escalated in November as Cruyff was accused of racism by Ten Have against fellow supervisory board member Davids.
The boardroom dispute could have a financial impact on Ajax. Adidas, Aegon and the second-largest shareholder Delta Lloyd have all expressed concerns over the situation.
The supervisory board and Cruyff had approached the likes of Marco van Basten, Marc Overmars and Guus Hiddink to fill the chief executive role without success. Van Basten will return to management this summer after accepting the challenge of becoming coach at Eredivisie side Heerenveen whilst Guus Hiddink has taken up a manager and vice-president for development role at Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala.
Cruyff rejoined the board last February after starting his revolution by criticising his former club on a number of occasions in his weekly newspaper column for De Telegraaf, culminating in a piece headlined “This is not Ajax anymore.” Cruyff had hoped for support from his new fellow supervisory board members in his attempts to implement changes (including bringing in Dennis Bergkamp – now assistant manager – and Wim Jonk to run the youth academy) but fell out with them over demands to overhaul the club’s youth system, such as recommending the sacking of a number of coaches.
Ajax chairman Uri Coronel, directors Cor van Eijden and Joop Krant resigned last March over their dispute with Cruyff whilst also giving up their roles on Ajax’s supervisory board (to be replaced by the now departing Ten Have, Cruyff, Davids, Olfers and Römer).
It seems that Cruyff may finally be able to implement his technical revolution at the Eredivisie giants, defeating various foes in the process.
According to the Press Association, Coronel said in a news conference last March: “Johan Cruyff is not just anyone. He’s a demi-god here.”
Picture:Getty ImagesTagged in: Ajax, Eredivisie, europe, football, Johan Cruyff
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