Saturday, June 26, 2010

Austria nobody counted among potential World Cup finalists, the best years of Austrian football already in the dusty historic books. As if to prove their own sinking, the Austrians had a new and highly unusual champion: VOEST Linz. Today the club is not around – there is a club called Blau-Weiss Linz, which is somewhat claiming its origins in the defunct VOEST.
The champions were not any good and just for the record, here they are:
Nothing can be said about them, really. Austria (Vienna) got the Cup.
This season was the end of big league in Austria: constantly shrinking attendance and constantly increasing costs were the sorry reality. Many a club were on the verge of bankruptcy and traditional structure was no longer supportable. The premise for reform was sound finances – the new league was to be reduced to 10 clubs. Thus, 7 had to go down – nothing pleasant about that, but the Austrian scheme made it even more unpleasant. Vienna was allowed to keep 2 clubs in the new league, and the provinces – one each province. However, two provinces were difficult – old clubs like Sturm and GAK (both from Graz) came from Styria. The decision who to keep place in the upper level was based on the total number of point over the last 5 years – Sturm survived with 149 point, 2 more than their city rival. Upper Austria also was a problem: since relatively smaller VOEST were champions, their city rival and much bigger club LASK (Linz) had to be relegated – at the end they were allowed to contest a playoff against the winners of three region divisions: Mitte (Kapfenberger SV), Ost (ASV Stockerau), and West (FC Dornbirn). LASK won and at the end practically no club was promoted – the new league had only old members. The geographic ‘fairness’ had a weird twist: Donawitzer SV Alpine, 6th at the end of 1973-74, was relegated as a second club from its province. But the lowly SC Eisenstadt (13th) and Austria Klagenfurt (14th) preserved places in the new league – no other clubs from their provinces played at top level. The ‘wisdom’ of this structure amply showed itself the next year – Austria (Klagenfurt) finished 9th and escaped relegation by one point. SC Eisenstadt were 10th and relegated.
Austria was the first country to display the doom coming to smaller championships: frantic efforts for reform and survival, never successful… reduced league was a desperate attempt and did not work – to this very day Austrian football suffer constant financial troubles. 1970s changed profoundly the structure of the smaller leagues in Europe – from that time their only goal is bare survival.