Theoretically they’re just an amateur team but in practice the aspiration is European football. RAAL is aiming high despite really being a club founded as late as 2017.
You’ve probably never heard of Belgium’s RAAL, right? No wonder, the historical team established back in 1913 ceased to exist in 2009. Its place at the Tivoli stadium was taken by UR La Louvière Centre but the team proved somewhat unconvincing as the successor of RAAL. With an opening to take over its exact license, in June 2017 another team was created in La Louvière, with a different business plan in mind.
The campaign’s face is Salvatore Curaba, a local born to Italian immigrants, former football player and currently an IT entrepreneur. The big dream was to bring RAA Louvière back to its glory and his name proved to be the magnet to bring many people together. While the team may be playing in amateur 4th league (D2), the goal is to bring RAAL to the top tier back again.
The new RAAL is being built steadily despite the ongoing pandemic but recently another promising opening appeared: the city of La Louvière announced a competition to reorganise land just east of the current Tivoli stadium, currently occupied by training fields.
The newly-formed football club successfully built a coalition to deliver a new football-specific stadium at the aforementioned site. Contracting would be awarded to regional powerhouse WANTY, while design is shared between local Carré 7 and France’s Marriotti & Associés.
First, RAAL have to win the municipal call for offers, which should be decided on June 15. If successful, the campaigners still have to secure a regular construction permit for the new stadium. Hopeful of becoming the preferred bidders, RAAL are aiming to break ground this time next year. If this happens, their stadium could be ready in mid-2023.
RAAL La Louvière want to create a stadium meeting all criteria for UEFA Category 3 at first, then possibly upgrade to Category 4, which would allow the venue to host international fixtures of almost all levels. In other words: the stadium could become a gateway into major success in Belgian football.
In principle, the stadium is expected to deliver what the old Tivoli didn’t: compact layout with proximity to the field, and a sense of community. The latter means that app. 800 places are set for the ultras of the club.
However, at the same time RAAL officials made it very clear that the team’s success relies more on VIP and premium seating, which would consume an exceptionally high percentage of overall capacity (1,600 seats out of 8,600), spread across two levels.
Because all of the cost is to be carried by the private football club (including bank credit), the budget is capped at €16 million ($19.5m). Beyond this level the project is reportedly unfeasible.