Newspaper Trouw: UM Professor involved in abuse connected to Maastricht basketball team

The YCND foundation of UM-professor Vreugdenhil uses basketball to tackle obesity in children

Newspaper Trouw: UM Professor involved in abuse connected to Maastricht basketball team

UPDATE. Professor denies; UM is not taking action yet

06-03-2024 · News

MAASTRICHT. The Maastricht professor Anita Vreugdenhil and her Your Coach Next Door (YCND) foundation have been linked by daily newspapers Trouw and De Limburger to abuse at basketball team Maastricht Rebels. The professor denies the accusations. Maastricht University refers to it as ‘ancillary duties’, even though the foundation leans heavily on Vreugdenhil’s research within UM.

According to the newspapers, the YCND foundation, of which Vreugdenhil – a professor at UM as well as a paediatrician in MUMC+ – is the founder, is closely connected to basketball club Kimbria’s first team: the Maastricht Rebels. The owner of that team, the British Mike Rawson, is the key figure in the whole affair: he was supposedly underpaying players – 400 per month instead of the legal minimum wage of 2,069 euro – as well as allowing foreign players to play without work permits and insurance. Previously, the Brit was convicted of visa fraud and misleading the authorities when he was the owner of a basketball academy in the United States.

As to the question where does Rawson get the money to pay his pupils, there is a lot of unclarity. There are sponsors and partners listed on the site of the Rebels, but according to Trouw most of them don’t know anything about a collaboration or they are Rawson’s own businesses. The only partnership that can be verified is the one with YCND.

YCND trains care professionals to become coaches for children and their families during lifestyle changes, especially geared towards children who are overweight or obese. It is strongly linked to UM research: the foundation is a result of Vreugdenhil’s research centre COACH (Centre for Overweight Adolescent and Children’s Healthcare) and the methodology is based on research results from this centre.

Trouw wonders whether money from YCND goes to the Rebels: after all, the foundation’s logo adorns the Rebels’ shirts as its main sponsor. Moreover, in their contracts it states that the basketball players receive 1,650 euro in exchange for acting as ambassadors for the foundation, which includes providing clinics, according to the newspaper.

According to the journalists, Vreugdenhil is also privately involved: team owner Rawson is her partner and she attends meetings of the Rebels. There is also a container home in her garden – put there in 2021 by Rawson after the flooding of the Maas – where Ukrainian players stayed without the knowledge of the authorities, Trouw writes. According to the newspaper, Vreugdenhil was aware of this.


Vreugdenhil denies any financial ties. To Observant she also informs by e-mail that “the foundation YCND does not pay players nor is it a sponsor of the Maastricht Rebels.” She did not react to the question whether she could produce an annual account of YCND. She did however say that she sees the potential of basketball in tackling overweight in children in schools and neighbourhoods. “We have a (project-based) collaboration with several parties, including Rebels. One of the many collaborations, by the way, that we have as a foundation concerning this theme.”

For the time being, Vreugdenhil does not want to answer further questions by Observant. Where last Friday, she promised Observant to tell her side of the story this week, she later changed her mind. This is in anticipation of possible follow-up articles in the media and to prevent herself from “stirring further media attention”. She also states her need for peace and quiet. She wants to share her “complete story at a later moment”.

Relation with scientific work

A spokesperson for UM already stated to Observant that the university is not taking action yet. “UM is not involved in YCND’s activities. As an employer, we can confirm that professor Vreugdenhil reported and received permission for ancillary duties for this foundation. At the moment, we are not aware of any matters that would prove that this permission was granted unjustly.” In the register for ancillary duties by professors on the UM website, Vreugdenhil is indeed registered as “owner, manager, teacher” of YCND.

To what extent the university is not involved with the foundation, is still the question, because the interrelation between the scientific work at UM and the implementation by the professionals of YCND is more than clear. Besides, UM devoted praising attention on its own website last summer because of the fact that health insurers had included the project in their standard package. NUTRIM, the research school under which Vreugdenhil’s research centre COACH comes, highlights the social impact of YCND on the UM-site. The foundation is described there as a “natural experiment” that can provide a “tremendous amount of data” and a “unique possibility to evaluate the effects of interventions”.

The city of Maastricht has already announced that it will carry out an investigation into the affairs of Rebels Maastricht, De Limburger reports. Basketball club Kimbria has meanwhile discontinued its collaboration with the team and owner Rawson.

This article was updated at 6-3-2024

Correction 11-3-2024: In an earlier version of this article, it stated that, according to their contract, the players received 1650 euros from the YCND foundation for the ambassadorship. However, the Trouw article leaves it unclear who pays this.

Photo: Shutterstock

Categories: News, news_top
Tags: vreugdenhil,kimbria,coach,your coach next door,rebels,baksetbal,foundation

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