MeToo at Ajax Amsterdam: In a culture of sexism

MeToo at Ajax Amsterdam: In a culture of sexism
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The smartphone vibrates, nobody answers it, instead the mailbox starts. "Hi Marc," an Englishman can be heard saying. Can you meet up? beep A Spaniard: "Hola, Marc." Beep. A voice with a French accent: "Hi, Marc." Beep. The next picture. A pub. A man in a gray plaid coat and a flat cap is sitting at the counter. He raises his glass, takes a sip. A subtle smile plays around his mouth, and in white letters on a dark background appears: "Overmars 2026".

Exactly two months ago, the Dutch soccer record champions Ajax Amsterdam played this almost one-minute film on their social media channels, with the title "Stop calling Marc" and a winking smiley. It was a message to all the Barças, PSGs and Arsenals out there: You don't have to bother anymore, Marc Overmars, sporting director at Ajax for almost ten years, has extended his contract with us until 2026.

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Two months later, "Overmars 2026" became "Overmars 2022" almost overnight. On Sunday, a quarter of an hour before midnight, Ajax announced that the sporting director had left the club with immediate effect.

The reasons for this are disturbing and unsavory. After there was initial talk of the sports director's behavior towards female employees, further allegations against the 48-year-old have now surfaced. The newspaper "NRC" now reports that Overmars also sent photos of his genitals, so-called Dickpics, to a colleague at Ajax - and not just once.

The newspaper has been researching this matter since December and says it has spoken to eleven women who work or have worked for Ajax. They paint a picture of a macho culture within the club in which Overmars plays a special role.

MeToo at Ajax Amsterdam : In a culture of sexism

Overmars was known internally as a horny goat

Ajax' sports director behaved like a stalker, kept sending subordinates WhatsApp messages, became pushy and suggestive. Internally he is said to have been called "Geilneef" (roughly: horny goat) or "vieze oom" (nasty uncle). One of the women NRC spoke to says: "Sexism is part of the culture of this club."

Overmars has not responded to the new allegations, according to NRC. In the announcement of his resignation, he was quoted as saying: "I am deeply ashamed." Unfortunately, he did not realize that he had crossed borders. "It has only now become clear to me." For someone in his position, the behavior is unacceptable, so he has no choice but to leave the club.

In the summer of 2012, Overmars started as sporting director at Ajax, the club where he celebrated his greatest successes as a footballer. The fact that Ajax is sportingly and financially as brilliant as it has been for decades is mainly due to him and his work.

Overmars was responsible for Ajax's resurgence

Together with CEO Edwin van der Sar, his former team-mate, Overmars has steered the club back into the extended pinnacle of European football. In 2017, Ajax were in the final of the Europa League, in 2019 they were only a few seconds short of reaching the final of the Champions League. This year the team of coach Erik ten Hag, who worked closely with Overmars, is again in the round of 16 of the competition.

Added to this are the financial successes that Overmars can boast of. Through transfers - including from Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt and Donny van de Beek - he has brought the club income in the three-digit million range without weakening the sporting substance of the team in the long term. "Marc is probably the best sporting director Ajax has ever had. It was no coincidence that we upgraded and extended his contract," said Leen Meijaard, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, after the allegations against Overmars became known. "But he pushed boundaries so it was impossible to continue with him."

The allegations against Overmars probably came to light by chance. At the end of January, Edwin van der Sar sent an email to all Ajax employees. The reason was news about abuse cases on the TV show "The Voice of Holland". Ajax will again pay more attention to the issue, said van der Sar, without apparently having a concrete suspicion. At the same time, he named persons of trust to whom those affected could turn.

More on the subject

"Inappropriate messages" sent to female employeesAjax sporting director Overmars resigns over allegations of harassment

His email ended with the words: " This is a sensitive topic, but I certainly don't want to avoid it.” A week later, this was no longer possible either.