Belgian soccer’s Pro League has today announced the appointment of politician Lorin Parys as its new chief executive.
Parys will take up his new position on April 1 and replace the outgoing Pierre Francois who has served in the role for seven years.
Francois, who will step down at the end of the season, had overseen the recruitment process and previously agreed to remain with the organization for the initial months of his successor's tenure to support a transition period.
Parys’ appointment was approved by the board of directors and general assembly of the Pro League today, with the process led by headhunters Odgers Berndtson.
Peter Croonen, Pro League president, said: “It has been an intensive process. We have chosen someone who can look at the sport with a fresh but analytical view, bring people together, and look for solutions.
“Lorin will be the face of professional football in Belgium but will develop behind the scenes relationships with the clubs, the soccer federation, partners and policy and lead the organization.”
Parys comes from a political background and has held multiple positions within the Belgian government, including as a member of the Flemish parliament where he was elected as vice-chairman of the N-VA party last year.
He began his career as a lawyer for the Latham and Watkins firm in New York City in the US.
The 45-year-old does have some previous experience in Belgian soccer through a stint as chief operating officer of domestic giants Club Brugge.
Parys will relinquish all of his political duties to take up his new position with the Pro League.
Parys said: “I thought it was time for myself to take on a new challenge. It is my ambition to grow football as a sport, as a social engine, and as an economic sector.
“So, I now switch from the main thing to the most important side issue. And it looks quite impressive with more than 1 million registered fans, more than 3 million spectators, 11,000 registered youth players, and 298 social projects with 55,000 participants and 700 million euros of added value in combination with thousands of jobs at the professional clubs.
“Together with all the partners that football has, I am really looking forward to adding a turbo to it. From Friday 1 April I will resign from all my political functions and I will give 100% to our football.”
During his seven-year tenure, François was responsible for negotiating a lucrative new five-year rights deal with Eleven Sports, the international subscription broadcaster, worth €100 million ($110 million) per season which came into effect for the 2020-21 campaign.
He also navigated the league through a difficult financial period during the Covid-19 pandemic.