East Flanders is filled with beautiful stadiums and grounds. Not that far away from Oudenaarde we find another even more beautiful stadium in Zottegem. The Jules Matthijs stadium is an absolute must do for all groundhoppers! This looks like a stadium perfectly fit for the upper national amateur leagues in Belgium, but unfortunately SVS (KSV Sottegem) is playing in the regional leagues.
SVS first saw the football daylights in 1922 as Sportvereniging Sottegem. A few years later they received the magical matricule number 225 and they are playing in the typical blue/yellow combination, something that is used more often in the province of East Flanders apparently. For years SVS played in the regional leagues, until 1957 when they first promoted to the national leagues, back then already fourth division. In 1961 they even promoted to third division, where they would stay for a full decade. By that time their old stadium near the Bruggenhoek (capacity: 4.000) was too small (spectators even climbed up on the roofs to be able to see the games) and a new stadium was built in the neighbouring Erwetegem, this time for 5.000 people. These days this is used as a youth facility.
In 1969 they won the championship in third division (with Urbain Braems as young coach) and promoted to second division for the very first time. To celebrate this the city of Zottegem built a new stadium for SVS with a capacity of 9.000 people. This was the current Jules Matthijs stadium. Most people will recognize the elascon grandstand - typical for that period. During these peak years SVS also had great cup moments with victories against AA La Gantoise and memorable games against RSC Anderlecht. But then the good times would fade away...
In 1970 during a cup game against STVV the players demanded more money after having beaten Crossing Schaerbeek and again AA La Gantoise in the previous rounds. After long negotiations and when the referee started to mingle in the debate the SVS board agreed to the demands and the game could be continued. STVV finally won the game and went through to the cup final, but the SVS board didn't forget what had happened. The board decided to dismiss a couple of A players and continue the rest of the season with youth players. It goes without saying SVS relegated after two years in second division. By the end of the 70s they even relegated to fourth division and after one year even to the regional leagues. They did return to fourth division quickly, but by 1988 it was over for a number of years.
In 1994 SVS returned to fourth division and the next years they would go up and down between third and fourth division. But a few years ago the devil came back. In 2010 SVS relegated to fourth division and one year later even to the regional leagues. But that wasn't all. As if the results weren't bad enough, the team also had to deal with a lot of debts and had to file for bankruptcy. After going back and forth with the Belgian FA for the new set up, they had to restart in the third regional league. In 2014 they returned to the second regional league, a division in which they currently still play.
If you thought the Burgemeester Thienpont stadium was impressive, be sure to visit this one as well. It has a great standing area in front of the grandstand, some wonderful and surprising terracing and a beautiful grandstand. It is a shame to see however SVS amended the grandstand so it's not a full elascon stand anymore. Although they did keep the skeleton and the old shape is still recognisable. We sure do hope to see this team and the stadium back in the national leagues soon. Back where they truly belong!
They shared the stadium with Eendracht Elene-Grotenberge for two years. This team currently plays in the highest regional league. Eendracht Elene-Grotenberge is a merger from 2014 between Eendracht Grotenberge (not sure when it was founded, but they joined the FA during WWII and always played in the regional leagues) and Eendracht Elene (founded during the 70s, but only joined the Belgian FA in 2004 and always played in the regional leagues as well). They are not that far away from their first appearance in the national leagues if they keep playing like this. Very recently EEG went back to their old grounds.
Anecdote: During the 30s SVS was very close to non existence as in that period the Flemish FA was created and Racing Zottegem was one of the better teams. For years SVS was pressured to take over Racing or merge with Racing. Luckily and thanks to the persistence of the SVS board and the interruption of WWII (during which the Flemish FA ceased to exist) SVS could continue their normal activities.