Fights add to football crisis

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Violence broke out in various locations around downtown Oslo during the night, after the city’s two major football clubs had battled themselves on the field. The losing club, Lyn, also faces bankruptcy, and the fights involving its fans only added to the sorry state of what’s supposed to be a popular sport in a country trying to attract the European Championships.

Instead, Norwegian football is widely viewed as being in crisis. Many clubs face severe financial difficulties, attendance is way down and the quality of play is as well. The country’s national team hasn’t qualified for World Cup action next year.

Police, meanwhile, had their hands fullfrom 10pm until nearly 4am Monday, reports Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Football club Lyn had lost badly to arch rival Vålerenga Sunday evening, by a score of 4-1, and it didn’t take long before so-called “supporters” of the game were in fact tearing its reputation apart.

At least a half-dozen fights broke out around town after both victorious and defeated fans hit the bars. The worst brawl, according to police, occurred in Stortingsgate, not far from the Norwegian Parliament, where seven men were arrested and one was taken to hospital after suffering facial lacerations.

Police said that “innocent bystanders” also were attacked by football fans who ran amok. “We have to take this very seriously,” a police spokesman told NRK, adding that those arrested face large fines.

Salt in the wounds

The match itself must have rubbed salt into the wounds of Lyn, whose players face unemployment if the club can’t come up with at least NOK 17 million in fresh capital and a workout deal with creditors. Vålerenga, which already had irritated Lyn fans by broadcastinga mock funeral of Lyn, scored three goals in the first 16 minutes of play.

Less than 14,000 attended the match at Ullevaal Stadium, which has capacity for nearly twice as many. The match results could have nonetheless been a case of sweet revenge for Vålerenga, which hadn’t beat Lyn for 28 years. Instead it sparked mixed feelings, reported newspaper Aftenposten . “We almost feel sorry for them,” agreed some Vålerenga players when it was all over. “It kind of felt like kicking someone when they’re already down.”

Commercial sponsors have little sympathy. “Norwegian football has used money like drunken seamen,” claimed Jacob Lund of DnB NOR at a seminar last week. He thinks other clubs will soon be facing bankruptcy as well.