Johan Verbist is the new referee coordinator at the Royal Belgian Football Association (URBSFA). He replaces Paul Allaerts, who resigned in order to become the general manager of the first division club Mouscron. Verbist is a former international referee. Between 1996 and 2016 he was active at the highest level in Belgium. Until 2010 he was on the FIFA List and he was elected the Belgian Referee of the Year in 2004 and 2014. "It is a real honor for me to get this opportunity", Verbist (photo) said in the press release. "With all the employees of the Refereeing Department we will use our experience to offer our referees the opportunity to work in the best conditions in order to see them making progress so that they can also shine at the international level".
Allaerts started to work with the Belgian Football Association in 2013 as Sporting Director. Last year he was forced to “switch” from the position of Sporting Director to Director of Refereeing, barely a week after Frank De Bleeckere was dismissed as Elite Referee & Talent Manager. For budgetary reasons, it was officially announced, but there were rumours that Allaerts tried to save his own skin at the cost of De Bleeckere. "A bolt from the blue", responded the De Bleeckere when struck. "Everyone was happy and my evaluations were positive". The referees were very pleased with the approach of De Bleeckere, which used his vast experience at European and world level. Moreover, he became a mentor and referees could talk to him on a professional and personal level. When it appeared that the Allaerts had a different approach, the atmosphere changed. The referees were mostly on their toes by the further professionalization without financial compensation, the heavier tests and additional group training. That came along with the lack of communication when Allaerts did not show the same people management skills as De Bleeckere. A delegation of top referees (Serge Gumienny, Bart Vertenten and Sebastien Delferière) organized a few meetings with Allaerts to express discontent. Also the referee union finally came to the conclusion that the situation could not last any longer, so the story ended with Allaerts resigning from the Belgian Football Association. "We want a replacement as soon as possible, preferably, someone who can teach us something with his referee experience and also help us at the international level", said Gumienny. He mentioned no name, but the most suitable candidate for the profile could be Frank De Bleeckere. "The Bleeckere? He has proven that he can teach us something". Clear, especially since the referees considered De Bleeckere as a counselor even after his resignation and were absolutely asking for a return. When De Bleeckere, now ambassador of the vanishing spray in the Belgian company Expoline, was asked whether he would look back, he responded expectantly: "That's not an issue, but I'll leave it completely open". This time he would have to get guarantees, to avoid what happened to him a year ago. Today, the Belgian Football Association announced Johan Verbist as their new referee coordinator.