Why the seat of Frits Philips remains empty at PSV's Philips Stadion
Even during the biggest games, one seat remains vacant at the Philips Stadion.
On evocative summer nights and wintry afternoons, the home of Eindhoven's beloved PSV appears full to capacity, the visits of Ajax and Feyenoord attracting thousands in colour and passion.
Still, one seat is empty.
The seat of Frits Philips.
Who is Frits Philips?
In a history littered with influential icons, there is no greater symbol of PSV than ‘Mr Frits.’ The fourth chairman of Koninklijke Philips Electonics, a local business that mushroomed into a pre-eminent global force, Frits grew up in lock step with its football club.
As an eight-year-old boy, the Philips Stadion rose majestically before his very eyes, PSV Eindhoven expanding from a mere means of recreation for Philips employees into a behemoth of continental football. While heading the Philips conglomerate, Frits remained the most ardent advocate of PSV as the club’s supporters, much like the whole of Eindhoven, fell in love with his freethinking modesty.
With the club developing rapidly, Mr Frits famously chose not to use the modern hospitality facilities inside the stadium, electing instead to join the main bulk of fans in the stands. Even as managers came and went, legends were made and sold, trophies were won and lost, Frits Philips could be found in section D, row 22, seat 43.
His was an undying loyalty.
Frits Philips was quite literally part of the furniture at PSV. Fans sung his name alongside those of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Mateja Kežman and Arjen Robben. When PSV won their 18th Eredivisie title in 2005, captain Mark van Bommel ambled up the terrace steps to embrace Frits, placing a scarf around his neck and allowing the ardent fan to lift the championship trophy.
Why Eindhoven renamed itself to honour Frits Philips
In many respects, Frits Philips was PSV, and he was accorded incredible respect by the Dutch football cognoscenti. Upon his passing at the grand age of 100 in December 2005, the club moved to create a worthy tribute. While the entire city of Eindhoven was renamed Frits Philips Stad for the day, the football club that so illustriously bore his family name wanted a more permanent honour. As a mark of respect, it was decided that Frits' seat would remain empty in perpetuity, a lasting tribute to a towering icon.
Nowadays, Frits Philips has become an even greater folkloric figure. Ultras groups such as Lighttown Madness frequently create displays in his honour at home games, while the empty seat has added lustre to his unprecedented tale.
The legacy of Frits Philips at PSV
The club frequently places flowers, placards and tributes on the seat to mark special occasions, honouring its past with poignant poetry. So next time you watch a PSV Eindhoven game, the Stadion so bedecked with fans, just remember that the greatest fan of all, one Frits Philips, is still in attendance long after his death.
In spirit and in memory, his legacy reigns supreme.