Updates on Duchâtelet’s ownership of Újpest

This article was written by Tamás Cserép (@tomicserep)

In a previous article, I wrote about Újpest – a lesser known Hungarian club that is owned by the Duchatelets – and the challenges they face under their ownership. A year on new developments have taken place under the family’s leadership. The town of Újpest used to be an independent town but has been incorporated into Budapest as a district.

On the 3rd of July, the club’s board decided to change the team’s badge.

The old badge on the left and the new badge on the right

The move was met with opposition by Újpest Sports Club, fans and citizens of the town of Újpest alike. Since the football club became independent from Újpest Sports Club, the latter was powerless in preventing the change happening. Last week the Sports Club lost the case regarding the badge change against the football team meaning that the new symbol will stay in place for the football club.

The new badge marked the start of the fiercest opposition to Duchatelet’s reign to date. The saga affected the whole district. Fans and citizens of Újpest have been demanding the change to be reversed. The mayor has proclaimed that the new badge is a violation of the club’s and town’s identity. An open letter from Újpest’s Cultural Society to the Football Club addressed the issue and the growing distance that is becoming more evident between the club and the district. It was signed by prominent local figures including the mayor, famous residents and honourary citizens. According to the board, the new badge is meant to pave a new pathway to success. The act was salt in the wounds and has further deteriorated the already hostile relationship between the Duchatelets and the fans. Supporters fail to accept the new badge and the ultras consider anyone buying products with the new symbol as traitors. They see this as a time of crisis since in their view the club is under siege. During games, they protest by holding up the rightful badge and boycotting matches altogether.

In a lot of countries, a change of badge is often warmly welcomed or goes under the radar. In Újpest the badge is synonymous with identity. The anchor depicted in it is not only part of the club’s badge but is also part of the town’s coat of arms to represent the important role its port played in the district’s history. The date of 1885 is the founding of Újpest Sports Club, which makes it the oldest running club in Hungary. By changing the badge and removing these key elements the board has discarded Újpest’s symbol to the outside world. All history associated with the sports club and the town is gone. Numerous great athletes have come through under that badge and served club and country on both the domestic and international sphere. Through one swift act and two purple blobs, all history has been erased.

Protesting does not seem to be working to counter this move so fans are calling for relegation through which they hope to oust Duchatelet from his throne. However judging from the change of badge – which could be to disassociate himself from Újpest Sports Club and possibly the town as well – he is in for the long term. It seems counterintuitive to act against the will of your fans and citizens. He is crippling the club both financially and emotionally and does not honour long-time servicemen of the team. Change could not come sooner enough. The situation raises the question of is this still the same historic club and does it represent Újpest at all?