We’d like to welcome you to a story that will be split into two different articles. For some reason we like to start with the ending. Therefore you can find yourself in the Stade Robert Urbain this week. A stadium which is being used by Royal Francs Borains, a team with a rich and complicated history.
We are in 1988. Royal Francs Borains, playing with matricule number 167, underwent a merger a couple of years before and the team was playing an important role in the Belgian third division. It clearly had the ambition to go to first division and, according to the chairman, also win a European cup as soon as possible… To be able to cope with that ambition, a new stadium was the way to go forward. In 1988 RFB moved to the brand new Stade Robert Urbain, only a couple of hundred meters away from their old stadium.
Unfortunately RFB always stayed in the middle of the league and in 1995 they relegated to fourth division. Although the team ended on a third spot in 1997 they were forced to relegate to the regional leagues after the Belgian FA found out their debt was too high to carry on. RFB did prove they were very strong as they managed to go back to third division in only two years time. For three years straight they even made it to the play offs to go to second division, but they failed every time. Afterwards they carried on in third division.
In 2008 another big change within the club: RFB completely restructured the board and the city of Dour accepted to help out the team. On one condition though – the team name was to be changed into R Boussu Dour Borinage. And thus this happened. One year later they finally made it to the so long desired second division. And they even did great there as they never had any problems staying away from the relegation spots. For five years they lived the dream although their hunger for first division and a European title was a bit more realistic now.
But then one day in 2014 the team was approached by RFC Sérésien. That club was playing in the top regional league in Liège and was just recently bought by the French FC Metz. RFC Sérésien wanted to jump a couple of leagues, and fast. The fastest way in Belgium to do this is to play around with matricule numbers. Sérésien had the rather magical number 23 and RBDB had no problems selling their number 167, but only if they found another matricule number so they could stay in the national leagues. And they found one via Roberto Leone.
Get ready for a complicated story here. Roberto Leone was the owner of number 5192 (Charleroi Fleurus) and number 94 (FC Charleroi), third and fourth division respectively. Both teams underwent a lot of mergers in the years before (we have the full overview and history here and here). Mr. Leone wanted to step out of the world of football and was looking to sell his clubs. RBDB and Roberto found an agreement to sell matricule number 5192 to RBDB. FC Charleroi would unofficially merge with Charleroi Fleurus and continue playing with number 94 in the Charleroi region. They would officially merge with matricule number 23 of RFC Sérésien to take over the national youth label. RFC Sérésien became Seraing United with number 167 and going to second division. And Royal Boussu Dour Borinage became Royal Francs Borains again and continued in fourth division (as Charleroi Fleurus had just relegated from third division) with number 5192.
By 2016 the football structure was reorganized and RFB was placed in the third amateur league. Two years later they managed to promote to the second amateur league. Currently they still play there, in Stade Robert Urbain, named after Robert Urbain who was the chairman up until the merger in 1982. The stadium is also known as Stade Vedette, named after the nearby mines.
To illustrate the ambition the club always had and still has, we can list you just a couple of the former players: Bjorn De Wilde, Mohamed Dahmane, Teddy Chevalier, Frédéric Tilmant, Alexandre Teklak, Dare Nibombe, Laurent Wuillot, Jonathan Walasiak, ... They all had a history with Francs Borains somewhere in their career.
We can go very deep into the wonderful history and joyful playing around with matricule numbers, but that would become a book on its own. For now – one example… The exact same kind of switch happened between SK Terjoden-Welle and Racing Club Schaerbeek when the latter had just relegated to the second regional league but wanted to play higher up. Buying SKTW's matricule number gave RC Schaerbeek the chance to start over in fourth division under the name of Renaissance Club Schaerbeek.
The attentive reader will notice we haven’t covered the earliest part of the Francs Borains story. So we guess you all know what we’ll be talking about next week…