Financial woes plague football

Norwegian football clubs are mired in serious financial trouble that’s forcing major budget cuts, also at several of the country’s top clubs. For them, the decline marks a dive in status and often a painful reality check.

Football club Stabæk is having to make the most dramatic budget cuts in a Norwegian league that's hurting. PHOTO: Stabæk

Clubs like Vålerenga, Lyn and Stabæk were accustomed to having wealthy “sugar daddies” who generally came forward with money when the boys had blown their budgets. Shipowner John Fredriksen kept Vålerenga afloat for years, while self-made tycoon Atle Brynestad plowed a fortune into Lyn and wealthy aristocrat Kjell Christian Ulrichsen helped pave the way to glory for Stabæk. Fredriksen will probably always have a soft spot for Oslo’s Vålerenga, but both Brynestad and Ulrichsen have had to cut the flow of money to their chosen clubs, and the consequences are dramatic.

Lyn is now a shadow of its former self while Stabæk has suffered a profound fall from grace that’s only really setting in right now. Something called stormanns galskap (literally, “a big man’s craziness”) prompted the club to move to the fancy new arena at Fornebu that the club rarely managed to fill, and now, after some poor results and drama over a player transfer, Stabæk has to move back to the rundown Nadderud Stadium in Bærum. The club is quarreling over funding with Bærum officials, who don’t see why the public should bail the club out of its financial quagmire. Meanwhile, the smaller stadium means smaller revenues. The result: A budget for next year that’s less than half this year’s: NOK 30 million in 2012, compared to NOK 70 million in 2011, reports newspaper Aftenposten.

At Vålerenga, the budget cut isn’t nearly as bad, but likely will amout to NOK 10 million. Much of that, as at other clubs, is pegged to a decline in ticket sales, as fans just aren’t turning up for matches like they used to do.

Rosenborg, traditionally seen as Norway’s strongest club, also in international terms, has also been hit hard by a sharp drop in ticket revenues. The club had a bad season and fans lost interest. Club officials are having to cut costs dramatically. Rosenborg chairman Terje Svendsen says the budget will still be the biggest in the league, at NOK 195 million, but that’s down from NOK 205 million.

Other clubs including Odd Grenland, Tromsø and Viking are also making big cuts, for total cost cuts at all the big clubs of around NOK 75 million. And the cutting has been going on since before the global finance crisis hit in 2008. Most clubs now have fewer administrative employees, fewer players, less money for training camps and support apparatus.

Molde is among the few clubs doing fairly well, with new star coach Ole Gunnar Solskjær guiding the players through a winning season. Molde, also backed by some wealthy businessmen, expects to boost its budget for 2012 but won’t say by how much. Others, like Lillestrøm, Fredrikstad, Aalesund and Brann of Bergen are holding the line.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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