Vitesse Arnhem is the name the club is known by on the international stage but their proper name is Stichting Betaald Voetbal Vitesse. The club were formed in May 1892 and were originally a cricket club. Vitesse won their regional Football Championship (there was no national championship at the time) five times before the First World War. However, the club have never won the national title.
At times Vitesse’s existence has been threatened with financial issues. In the late 1980’s the club restructured its professional and amateur boards to reduce costs, but by 2003 the club were in severe trouble again. It was the local council that came to the ailing club’s rescue with financial assistance. In 2010 the Georgian businessman Merab Jordania bought the club and his personal friendship with Roman Abramovich saw a link up between Vitesse and Chelsea for player development. With the sale to Jordania, Vitesse became the first Dutch club in foreign ownership. In 2013 ownership of the club moved to the Russian billionaire Aleksandr Tsjigirinski.
In the late 1990’s it was agreed that in order to challenge the domination of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord the club should build a new stadium and pitch for hosting rights for Euro 2000. The Gelredome was opened in 1998 and was essentially a combined concert venue with retractable roof and football stadium which uniquely featured a slide in pitch. The idea being the pitch would be stored outside the stadium to gain more access to sunlight. The new venue staged three group games in Euro 2000 and has an all seated capacity of 25,000 for football.
Previously Vitesse had played at the much loved Nieuw Monnikenhuize which had been home since 1950. It was demolished and the land sold for a housing development. The club’s first ground had been called Paaschwei onder Elden but this proved inadequate and a move was made in 1896 to the velodrome in Klarenbeek. This ground had extensive banking and was bordered by the expensive villas on the Velperweg. On September 26th 1915 the club opened a new ground called Monnikenhuize. The club stayed here until the land was needed for redevelopment. The club moved to the opposite side of Monnikensteeg to what was to become their spiritual home at Nieuw Monnikenhuize. In recent seasons Vitesse have become regular qualifiers in the Europa League but their record is somewhat uninspiring. Defeats in recent seasons to the likes of Anzhi Makhachkala and Petrolul Ploiești didn’t auger well for a draw against Southampton in this season’s competition. Effectively the tie was over in the first leg with Southampton, managed by former Vitesse coach Ronald Koeman, cantering to a 3-0 victory.
Vitesse fans gathered in decent numbers to the Gelredome for the second leg hopeful of at least regaining a little pride. However, with just four minutes gone a cleverly worked goal from Graziano Pelle put the English team in an unassailable lead. The hosts huffed and puffed but seemed to lack incisiveness up front. This was a stark contrast to the Saints when their other striker Sadio Mané tapped in a second just before the end.
I have to admit to being undecided about the Gelredome, it looks a bit too warehouse like externally and the Vitesse branding is restricted to a sole badge above the officials entrance. Internally it catches the eye with multi coloured seating but one does wonder if the Vitesse fans truly feel at home here.
Europa League 3rd Qualifying Round, 2nd leg – 06/07/2015
Vitesse Arnhem 0
Southampton 2 (Pelle 4, Mané 89)
Attendance: 20,550 (at the Gelredome)