A long-running struggle for control over Ajax’s club management and strategy took another twist Thursday when the entire board of directors, including football great Johan Cruyff, offered to resign.
The move follows a Dutch court ruling earlier this week rejecting the appointment of Louis van Gaal as CEO of Ajax. Cruyff had opposed Van Gaal’s appointment, which was made by the other four board members hostile to Cruyff without his knowledge or consent.
The club said Thursday the five will all leave “in the shortest possible term, once suitable replacements have been found that can count on broad support.”
However, it was far from clear when that will actually happen. The club also canceled an extraordinary meeting of shareholders set for Friday and no new date has been set.
Despite Cruyff’s offer to quit the board, his hand appears to have been strengthened by Tuesday’s ruling. Under the club’s Byzantine structure, self-proclaimed Cruyff supporter Hennie Henrichs chairs the Ajax Vereniging — the body that that must eventually propose a new supervisory board.
Meanwhile, other appointees Cruyff had opposed, including would-be executive Martin Sturkenboom and technical trainer Danny Blind, said Thursday they will depart the club immediately.
Blind, a former Ajax player and head coach, said his future at the club had been “tied to the possible arrival of Louis van Gaal.”
“Now that that’s not happening, I cannot and I will not continue,” he said in a statement.
Van Gaal coached a talented young Ajax team to the Champions League title in 1995, but fell out with Cruyff during his time at Barcelona.
Cruyff began his professional career at Ajax and he remains a highly influential figure at the club he helped turn into a European powerhouse in the 1970s.
The boardroom confusion at Ajax mirrors difficulties on the field: although the club is the defending champion in the Dutch league, it is currently sixth in the standings.