The RBFA's History

The RBFA was founded on 1 September 1895, thirty years after football first appeared in Belgium. Below you can read the various milestones and some interesting facts from the Royal Belgian Football Association's history.

When it comes to the exact origin of football there are different and contradictory sources of information. What we know for certain is that in our country the game was played in 1865 in English schools in Brussels. In that year workers employed at the British port companies in Antwerp and engineers at the Cockerill factory in Liège also played football. Their example was quickly followed in the College of the Josephites in Melle close to Ghent where the young Belgians were our first compatriots to play the sport. Nevertheless it took almost thirty years before the sport gained an official status in our country.


The 19th Century

1895: On 4 August, on the initiative of Louis Mühlinghaus, secretary of Racing Brussels, and in the presence of representatives of a number of well-known clubs, the Executive Committee (the Football Association’s actual management committee) is established at the same time as the General Assembly. The inaugural meeting is held in the 'le Courrier’ brewery on the Wolvengracht in Brussels.

1895: On 1 September the 'Belgian Union of Athletics Sports' (UBSSA) is officially founded by ten clubs that play football as well as athletics, cricket and cycling racing. The first official competition is also organised in this year. President of this overall body is Paul Hanssens; General Secretary is Louis Mühlinghaus who is also Secretary of the ’football section’. President of the ‘football section’ is Baron Edouard de Laveleye. The first ‘General Assembly’ is held at ‘Le Coq Tourné’ in the Naamsestraat in Brussels.

1898: Paul Hanssens resigns as President of the UBSSA and is succeeded by Baron de Laveleye who also continues as President of the football section.

1899: On 15 November the Association’s press body ‘La Vie Sportive’ in Leuven replaces the existing ‘L’étudiant Sportif’.


The Pre-War period

1900: ‘La Revue des Sports’ disappears and ‘La Vie Sportive’ becomes the Association’s official press body.

1900: The UBSSA moves its meetings from ‘le Coq Tourné’ to the ‘Taverne de Londres’ on the Schildknaapstraat in Brussels.

1903: On 24 February the Belgian Referees Association is founded. On 24 October it is incorporated in the Belgian Association and receives a subsidy of 75 BEF.

1904: On 1 May the Belgian National Team plays its first official international against France on the Ganzevijver in Uccle (3-3).

1904: The Association co-founds FIFA the World Football Association on 21 May.

1906: The football section obtains its own secretariat at number 10 in the Koninginnegalerij in Brussels.

1911: On 25 September Prince Albert demands that the Belgian Cup replaces the Provincial Cup. The Association organises the first Belgian Cup club competition.

1911: The football section moves to 71 Stoofstraat in Brussels, near the Manneken Pis but as a result of the War the Association’s activities are carried out at Alfred Verdyck’s home at 240 Koninginnestraat in Laken.

Red Devils 1929

1911: The Association’s Central Committee is dismissed. Alfons Verdyck succeeds Louis Mühlinghaus as Secretary of the football section.

1912: The UBSSA, no longer involved in cycling racing since 1911, also renounces athletics and from then on is known as the Belgian Football Union Association (UBSFA).

1913: From February a Flemish name is also introduced (BVB) Belgische Voetbalbond (Belgian Football Association). In the same General Assembly it is decided that teams are only allowed to include three foreigners per game; this applies to all Divisions.

1914: On 20 February the first edition of the weekly publication ‘Football Association’ is published. The last one was to appear on 31 December 1919 because it has to make way for the first monolingual and later bilingual ‘La Vie Sportive-Sportleven’.

1914: On 4 August the League is disrupted by the War. It resumes 4 years later on 28 September 1919.


In between the Wars

1919: On 28 September the League resumes.

1920: The Football Association reaches its 25th anniversary and on 10 February King Albert assigns it the title ‘Royal Association’. The current name of the RBFA enters into force.

1920: The Football Association moves to 14 Guimardstraat in Brussels.

1925: A number of promotion club managers join forces to create the ‘Ligue Nationale de Promotion’. This is the oldest League in the country.

1929: The Association purchases the building in the Guimardstraat.

1930: On 14 September the Heysel Stadium (then called the Jubilee Stadium) is inaugurated in a game between Belgium-Netherlands (4-1).

1930: The Flemish Football Association (VVB) was founded in protest against the Frenchification of the official Association. Shortly after the Second World War the VVB is effectively dissolved.

Hector Goetinck

1930: On 3 October the first edition of ‘Sportleven’ rolls off the press. The two most famous guest writers are the former referees John Langenus and Raf Van Praag.

1936: Berchem Sport is the first to receive the annual Prize for Medical Supervision, awarded by the RBFA.

1938: The first major transfer: Robert Lamoot moves from Daring CB to Olympic for 100,000 BEF (2,500 EUR).

1942: For the 1942-1943 Championship the Brabant Provincial Committee starts a ‘First Provincial’ Division.

1943: In May the Championship is interrupted by military operations.

1943: On 26 June the RBFA loses one of its best players when Hector ‘Torten’ Goetinck loses his life when a shell explodes in Heist.

1945: In February the foundations are laid for an association of First Class clubs (i.e. the two A and B series, just below the Premier Division) whose objective is to defend the clubs’ interests irrespective of the province they belong to.

1945: The Premier Division is renamed the First Class Division.


After the Second World War

1947: On 21 and 22 September, delayed for two years by the War, the RBFA celebrates its 50th anniversary, which includes a Belgium-England game (2-5). This year the RBFA’s ‘Golden Book’ is also published, ‘The History of Football in Belgium and Belgian Congo’.

1948: Club Luik acquires the defender Willy Saeren from SK Tongeren for a record sum of 1.2 million BEF (30,000 EUR). This transfer sum is even more astounding because it is ten times the amount of the 1942 record when Anderlecht paid 125,000 BEF for Jef Mermans from Olse Merksem.

1950: José Crahay succeeds Alfred Verdyck as Secretary General.

1951: George Hermesse succeeds the deceased Francis Dessain as Association President.

1958: Standard declares itself a ‘professional club’.

1958: The RBFA hosts the final of the Europa Cup for national champions between Real Madrid and AC Milan.


The Sixties and Seventies

1963: The ‘Entente des Clubs des Divisions Supérieures’ disappears.

1964: Under pressure from (semi-) professionalism the National League with First and Second Class clubs is created with Ghent local René Hoste as President. On 1 February the National League becomes affiliated with the RBFA.

1964: A few months later the Third Class Division is created.

1970: The RBFA celebrates its 75th anniversary with a friendly match against France (1-2).

1971: Women’s football (130 teams and 8,000 members) joins the RBFA.

1972: On 1 January the Association announces a call for referees through ‘Sportleven’ its Association press body.

1972: This year sees the emergence of professional football. In April twenty-one clubs put themselves forward as candidates for participation in a professional championship.

1973: Albert Roosens succeeds José Crahay as Secretary General.

Casa Hogar

1973: Just nine out of the twenty-one clubs that put themselves forward for participation in a professional championship are retained: Antwerp, Anderlecht, Club Brugge, Daring, Sporting Charleroi, Olympic Charleroi, AA Gent, FC Luik and Standard, followed later by Olse Merksem and AS Oostende. On 17 February these eleven unite to form the ‘Group of clubs with Professional and International Interests’.

1974: This group becomes the Professional Football League. The 1974-75 competition in the highest class starts with 20 clubs. Clubs with a professional structure that should normally be relegated are allowed to stay. From this season on periodic championships were played in the Second Class Division.

1977: As a result of the expanding number of services and growing number of companies a number of services are located at 43 Wetstraat in Brussels.



Modern Times

1980: The Professional Football League creates the Super Cup, a game between the defending champions and Cup winner. Club Brugge beats Beveren to win the first edition.

1985: On 6 March the Promotion Division joins the RBFA.

1985: On 22 March the Third Class Division joins the RBFA.

1985: The organisation of the Europa Cup 1 final between Liverpool and Juventus on 29 May feature a dramatic turn of events when Liverpool fans attack Italian supporters in the grandstand at the Heysel Stadium. Thirty-nine people die.

1988: Alain Courtois is named as Secretary General. He succeeds Albert Roosens.

1989: The brand-new Association premises on the Houba de Strooperlaan are inaugurated on 4 June after the RBFA sells its premises in the Guimardstraat and the Wetstraat.

Euro 20001990: Treasurer Jospeh Soeur passes away suddenly and is replaced by Germain Landsheere who fulfils this function until June 2011.

1991: The RBFA signs contracts with four national television channels BRT, VTM, RTB and RTL-TVI for games featuring all national divisions, the Belgian Cup and the National Team’s home games. The paid channels Canal+ and FilmNet sign a deal with the Professional League for 105 million BEF for broadcasting a High Class game live every Friday night for a period of five years.

1992: In March the RBFA organises the ‘hou het tof’ (keep it friendly) campaign that lasts a month and in which players in the centre circle assemble to greet the public. FIFA Secretary General and Pélé attend the launch.

1994: On 13 January the RBFA together with the Dutch Football Association KNVB puts itself forward as an official candidate to host the 2000 European national championship - Euro 2000 - after both countries missed out on hosting the 1996 EC.

1994: In May VTM and RTBF acquire broadcasting rights for Belgian football (League games, Belgian Cup, Red Devils home games) for four years.

10 June - 2 July 2000: Belgium and the Netherlands host the final stage of the European Championship. This was a first in football history as no two teams had jointly hosted a major tournament before. This example was followed by FIFA (World Football Association) who chose Japan and South Korea to host the 2002 World Cup.

2002: Jean-Paul Houben succeeds Alain Courtois as Secretary General.

2005: The Professional League signs a lucrative deal with paid channel Belgacom TV for live broadcasts of all League games.

2006: On June 24, François De Keersmaecker succeeds Jan Peeters as president of the FA.

2006: On 22 December Jean-Marie Philips is named CEO of the RBFA as successor to Jean-Paul Houben who retires from his post as Secretary General.

2008: On November 8, the Flemish wing of the Belgian FA ,VFV (Flemish Football federation) is founded.

2009: On March 14 VFV is officially recognized.

2009: In the spring the RBFA and the KNVB officially inform FIFA of their interest in jointly hosting the 2018 WC.

2009: On September 10, the French speaking wing of the Belgian FA, ACFF (Association of French speaking Football Clubs) is founded.

2010: On 16 June the contract between the RBFA and Jean-Marie Philips is broken as a result of differences in vision. Association President François De Keersmaecker also takes on the role of Secretary General ad interim until a suitable successor can be appointed.

2010: On 2 December it is announced that Russia and not the Belgium/Netherlands candidature has been chosen to host the 2018 WC.

2011: On 26 January Steven Martens is appointed as the new Secretary General. He succeeds CEO Jean-Marie Philips.

2011: The Professional League signs a new and improved TV contract with Telenet, VTM, Belgacom and RTBF.

2011: 1895, the official fanclub of the Belgian Red Devils, is founded.

December 17 2011: Frank De Bleeckere retires as a referee.

2012: The visionary text growing and winning is presented.

2012: The BeneLeague is founded.

2012: The new website Belgianfootball is launched.

2012: The Provincial Committee of West Flanders celebrates its 100th birthday.

2012: Georges Leekens resigns as national coach of the Belgian Red Devils and is replaced by Marc Wilmots.

2012: On May 14 the ACFF is officially recognized.

July 1 2012: BMW replaces AUDI as a sponsor of the Belgian FA.

2012: The Belgian Red Devils' Challenges are launched.

August 24 2012: The BeneLeague kicks off.

2013: The Red Lionesses become the Belgian Red Flames.

2014: The EURO Futsal is organized in Antwerp.

2014: The first digital match sheets are used.

2015: Steven Martens quits the Belgian FA and is replaced by Gérard Linard, CEO ad interim.

June 24 2015: The Belgian FA Cup becomes the Croky Cup.

June 27 2015: François De Keersmaecker is reelected as President of the Belgian FA.

June 24 2017: Gérard Linard is the new President of the Belgian FA.