At the 2014 World Cup, a new magical spray made its appearance on the football pitch: the so-called vanishing spray that keeps players and the ball in place during free kicks. Limburg-based Expoline was within an inch of being a supplier. Now the company is competing to become official supplier for the World Cup 2018 in Russia.

Expoline is a Belgian manufacturer and supplier of line marking paint and line marking machines and the company behind the website voetbalmateriaal.com. The company, which is based in Tessenderlo, has all kinds of football equipment: from whistles and balls, to marking trolleys and goals, to stands and players' tunnels.

The football equipment goes mainly to the Belgian and Dutch markets. "In Belgium we have a market share of 80%, in the Netherlands it is around 30-40%," says Raf Bogaerts. "We are now gradually starting to export these materials to France and Germany as well. But with the lining paints, our company is also active in other European countries.

With the development of the innovative vanishing spray, Expoline has put itself further on the football map. It's an easily exportable product that Expoline wants to go global with. "The negotiations with Brazil for the World Cup 2014 were as good as concluded, but unfortunately we were left out at the last minute.

"In the meantime, we have been appointed official supplier to UEFA and we are now also setting our sights on the World Cup in Russia in three years' time. In the meantime, we are in a far-reaching negotiation phase. I was surprised that Russia - despite its anti-European stance - opened the door.

How does Expo-Line approach its exports? "First and foremost we focus on the federations and their potential distributors. Establishing the right contacts is very important in our business. In Belgium, we have good contacts with the KBVB and the football federations. But we also work closely with the Sports Technology club."

"With the vanishing spray in particular, our intention is to first get a foot in the door with the federations internationally. In a second phase, we will look at whether we can also supply other products."

Not all countries open their doors just like that. "Now that we have to supply 54 members of UEFA, we are encountering a number of problems with regard to export, for example with Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkey, where our vanishing spray cannot be sent by air because it is considered a hazardous commodity.

"That is why we are now working on a number of approvals to eliminate that problem. So if there is one important piece of advice I can give to other entrepreneurs: surround yourself with the right people and get good guidance, including legal guidance."

This article was taken from Xport-stories of Unizo Magazine, p.26. Click here to view the original.