Football: Dutch club in court to claim Chinese owner's money to ease cash-flow problems

THE HAGUE (AFP) - Dutch top-flight football club ADO Den Haag dragged its Beijing-based owners to court on Wednesday in a bid to recoup more than €2.3 million (S$3.5 million) it is claiming in outstanding payments.

In a hearing lasting less than 10 minutes before a Hague district court, ADO's lawyer Paul Olden told judges that the club urgently needed the missing money to balance its books or face possible sanction from the Dutch football authorities.

ADO was given "six weeks to balance its budget", after the Royal Dutch Football Federation (KNVB) this month placed the club under so-called "Category 1" supervision - a designation used for financially struggling clubs, he said.

"If it doesn't work out, the KNVB may take further measures - and that means that ADO may lose its licence," the lawyer said.

Judgment in the case was set for Jan 5.

In an increasingly bitter dispute, The Hague-based ADO have slapped Chinese sports events company United Vansen with an urgent summons for the money this month.

It also brought a second case against United Vansen and its owner, wealthy Chinese businessman Wang Hui before the Amsterdam district court's commercial division.

In that case, judges last week ruled that he be temporarily suspended as chairman of the club's supervisory board and that his controlling shares be transferred to an independent supervisor.

United Vansen in 2014 bought a 99 per cent stake in the ailing ADO, with the club hoping the Chinese investment would boost its flagging fortunes on and off the field.

ADO's acquisition was one of the first from China, as wealthy investors looked at getting a foothold in the lucrative European football industry and in return attracting players to China.

But two years later, Wang's relationship has soured with ADO, who accused him of holding out on paying a €3.72 million investment in full, according to Dutch news agency ANP.

United Vansen's lawyers were not present at Wednesday's hearing - which legal observers said was an "unusual move", especially in an urgent application.

Wang previously said he was unaware of financial problems at ADO.

United Vansen this month also vowed that "we will never allow a great club like ADO to go bankrupt", and blamed its current management for the financial crisis.