The long-awaited return of European football to PSV Eindhoven has provided a welcome boost to the club, the city, and its historic corporate partner Philips, as they seek to recapture past glories.
In halcyon days, both PSV and electronics firm Philips were world-beating showcases for Dutch innovation and talent.
Together with Sony, Philips developed the compact disc in the 1980s, the latest in a series of technological inventions ranging from lightbulbs and electric razors to cassette players and advanced healthcare devices.
Founded in 1891, Philips rode the wave of fast-paced technological change at the turn of the 20th century and was the largest private employer in the Netherlands at its height.
In 1913, the company formed the “Philips Sport Vereniging” (“Philips Sports Club”), or PSV for short. Initially the club was strictly for Philips employees and it was only in 1928 that non-staff were allowed to don the club colours.
One year later, PSV won its first national title. It would go on to be Dutch champions 24 times — second only to bitter rivals Ajax in the historic pecking order.
The high point of PSV history was the 1987/88 season when a side featuring club legend Ronald Koeman and coached by Guus Hiddink won the treble of Eredivisie, Dutch Cup and European Cup, beating Real Madrid in the semi-finals then Benfica on penalties in the final.
That ushered in a glorious period of foreign and domestic talent to light up the Philips Stadium. Brazilians Romario and Ronaldo, Dutch legends Mark van Bommel, Ruud van Nistelrooy, and Arjen Robben: the list of all-time greats to grace the PSV shirt is impressive.
But Philips and PSV have both endured a tough few years.
Stung by a massive recall of faulty sleep respirators, Philips announced in January it would be cutting 6,000 jobs worldwide. Only a few months earlier, it had axed 4,000 staff.
Meanwhile, PSV have not qualified for the group stages of the Champions League for five seasons. The last time the Philips Stadium saw a group match was a 2-1 loss to Barcelona in November 2018.
And domestically, PSV have been habitual bridesmaids, finishing second for the past four completed seasons.
‘Really friendly club’
But things seem to be turning round. Philips announced a return to profit in July and has partially settled some of the lawsuits related to the recall. PSV top the Eredivisie, with seven wins from seven.
The links between the club and the firm are still strong. Fans visiting the stadium have an entire Philips superstore at their disposal. One fan dropped in to pick up a TV at the ground.
A 4-0 drubbing at Arsenal was not the best return to Champions League group action but spirits were high as they prepared to welcome Sevilla.
Erik Wijnhoven, who said he had been supporting PSV since watching the 1988 triumph as an eight-year-old, told AFP: “It’s been such a long time, it’s great to see PSV back at the top level.”
Wijnhoven, 42, who works at a care farm where people with special needs can look after the animals, couldn’t resist a pot shot at rivals Ajax, who are suffering their worst season since the mid 1960s.
“It helps that things aren’t going very well in Amsterdam… Unlike Ajax, PSV isn’t a stock market club, it’s a real football club. Ajax is more of a company and PSV is really a friendly club,” said Wijnhoven.
“I have been a PSV supporter my whole life and I will always be one,” declared Wijnhoven.
Will Peijnenburg, a 73-year-old HR manager, said: “I’m from Eindhoven, so I grew up with Philips… it’s great, we are very excited here in Eindhoven that PSV is back in the Champions League.”
Maes van Lanschot, the city’s alderman for sport and finance, said Eindhoven and PSV were now both “playing at a Champions League level.”
“Philips and also this city have been transforming themselves for the past 100 years,” he told AFP at Eindhoven City Hall.
Philips and PSV have a “strong and symbiotic relationship”, with the longest running sponsorship partnership in the world, Van Lanschot said.
“It’s in the name, right? The ‘P’ stands for Philips.”
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