Sportfondsen organizes 'Royal' Managers Days at Vaalsbroek Castle

Why location choice is an essential part of a successful meeting

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The anniversary edition of the 'National Managers Days' of Royal Sportfondsen Nederland took place at Vaalsbroek Castle. At this historic site in the gastronomic region of South Limburg, the theme – Royal Performance, Regal Enjoyment – truly came to life. Can a location help strengthen the purpose of a meeting? "Yes," affirms Bert Verkoelen with conviction.

Author: Judith Munster

Bert Verkoelen

Bert Verkoelen is the Operations Manager at Royal Sportfondsen Nederland, which manages over three hundred diverse facilities in the Netherlands, ranging from swimming pools to sports halls and from community centers to local halls. Besides his regular work, Bert has been organizing the National Managers Days for twenty years. Due to the company's growth, he now does this together with three colleagues.

Royal Designation

In 2023, Sportfondsen celebrated its 100th anniversary. In preparation for this milestone, we applied for the Royal Designation. The Royal Designation is an honor bestowed upon companies or associations as a mark of respect, appreciation, and trust from the King. Bert: "The process was quite extensive. We had to demonstrate that we are a financially sound company, that we maintain good conduct, and that we contribute positively to Dutch society. In November 2023, we were informed that we would receive the designation. Typically, this honor is presented at the headquarters, but we wanted the ceremony to take place during the event at Kasteel Vaalsbroek on April 4 and 5. Fortunately, our request was granted."

The National Managers Days focus on sharing knowledge, exchanging experiences, and having fun together. Reflecting on the past and looking forward are key components. As stated in the invitation to the managers: "With the theme 'Royal Performance, Regal Enjoyment,' we reflect on our history with the aim of learning from it. For those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. And that is something we cannot afford in a rapidly changing world that constantly presents us with new challenges and demands innovative solutions."


The National Managers Days are held in a different province every year. This year, Limburg was chosen. It had to be a place with 'a golden touch,' where history and innovation converge, and where Burgundian hospitality and professionalism go hand in hand. The location had to exude allure and provide top-notch service. Bert: "We always remind our own people: treat your guests as you would like to be treated yourself. Be warm, welcoming, and ensure that the service is impeccable. Because that's what brings people back. From experience, I know that the staff at Bilderberg share the same mindset."

Bert explains that he already knows Kasteel Vaalsbroek quite well on a personal level. "I've attended large events there, as well as more intimate gatherings, dinners... you name it. The experiences have always exceeded expectations. Kasteel Vaalsbroek is situated in the picturesque Limburg hilly landscape and exudes atmosphere. The kitchen is renowned for its local ingredients and seasonal dishes, and Limburgian hospitality envelops you like a warm blanket here. I couldn't think of a better place for our event." He chuckles. "I didn't have to make much effort to convince my colleagues."

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, working together is success”

Trumpet Fanfare

How was the gathering? Bert: "Just arriving was fantastic in itself. Driving through the wooded hills, the white castle suddenly loomed ahead. Upon arrival at the courtyard, guests were greeted with trumpet fanfare from 'royal' heralds. Everyone entered with a smile on their face. Then there was the welcome with coffee, tea, and a buffet of sweets.

Guest speaker was Emma Agricola, one of the youngest inclusion and diversity professionals in the Netherlands. She knows how to engage and retain Generation Z. Bert: "Emma fascinatingly talked about the importance of understanding each other and how to seek that. Focus on what binds us rather than differences."

This was followed by workshop sessions, including one on the integration of two companies. Bert: "We're in a transition where we're merging two companies into one. What does such an integration process do to people?" The afternoon concluded with the festive presentation of the Royal Predicate by Governor Emile Roemer, Commissioner of the King of the Province of Limburg. "Precisely at the moment of the presentation, champagne was brought in ceremoniously. It may seem like a small detail, but it's important. I've experienced so many times when such things go wrong at the crucial moment... At Kasteel Vaalsbroek, the timing was perfect."

“When you then feel that the people at the location are going to do what they promise, a weight is lifted off your shoulders”


In the evening, a murder dinner was on the agenda. Between courses, actors dressed in medieval costumes performed a humorous play, where guests had to discover "who had murdered the king" based on clues. The next morning started with a delicious breakfast and morning gymnastics in the courtyard of the castle. Bert: "After loosening up our muscles, we did a Sheepdog Herding workshop with the whole group. It was an extremely suitable team-building activity where beautiful metaphors could be drawn to our team through the behavior of the sheep and the border collies: 'Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, working together is success.' Then there were three outdoor activities described in a cryptic way: 'Royal activity with a steel horse' (Segway tour), 'royal hunt' (clay pigeon shooting), and 'royal entertainment' (sheep herding). After the concluding lunch, everyone received a paper bag to take home, including a handmade Delft Blue tile; a special collector's item in honor of the Royal Predicate."


"When all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place during the Managers Days... that's just a magical feeling," says Bert. "Good preparation is essential for that. Of course, things sometimes go wrong, and you solve that. This time it was different: the collaboration went smoothly from start to finish. The support we received beforehand, the brainstorming, constantly checking if our wishes were well understood... it all gave a lot of confidence. We visited the location once with the project group, and it felt like coming home. For us, organizing this event is something we do alongside our jobs, and it's a lot of work. When you then feel that the people at the location are going to do what they promise, a weight is lifted off your shoulders."

“One of the messages we wanted to convey was: just as you were pampered here, do the same with your own people. Cherish your employees and choose connection. That message definitely came across”


Although Bert's project team compiles the content of the program, there was a need for inspiration for the 'fun parts'. Bert: "Our contact person at Bilderberg connected us with event agency Double S Events. The creative, professional, and service-oriented owner brainstormed wonderfully with us. In the end, she shaped the royal murder dinner and organized the outdoor activities. She even managed to enlist the 'royal' heralds from Belgium, after I had already approached all the brass bands in the area without success."

The feedback from the managers was positive in every way. Bert: "They enjoyed every minute of it. From the trumpet fanfare, the delicious food, the beautiful buffets, the well-appointed rooms, the enjoyable activities, the friendly staff, even the weather was favorable to us. We didn't hear a single complaint. Our colleagues have gained a wonderful experience and feel appreciated. Such a gathering helps with mutual bonding. People find each other more quickly. One of the messages we wanted to convey was: just as you were pampered here, do the same with your own people. Cherish your employees and choose connection. That message definitely came across."

Castle Vaalsbroek

Surrounded by the rolling hills of South Limburg, you'll find a historic estate. A piece of foreign land in our own country. A unique setting for special gatherings with the option to stay overnight. Here, gastronomy, history, and experience come together. Welcome to Kasteel Vaalsbroek!

"During the gathering, we saw that everything came together perfectly. The reception, the festive presentation, and the activities fostered joy and connection. When all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, it gives an immense feeling of pride!"