Saturday, March 19, 2011

Austrian football, by mid-1970s, was hanging on old reputation, which was getting increasingly thin. It was reduced to pitiful advantage over Greek football and even this was mostly based on remains of memories. As a whole, the crisis was deep, eating the very core of football culture: low attendance, financial disasters, and shabby game. Reform was launched – reforms are always suspect in football: they look more desperate measures than improving, depending on one’s point of view. The Austrian one was supposed to be fundamental: to stabilize both financing and the quality of the game, the Austrian Bundesliga was drastically reduced from 17 to 10 clubs in 1974. The ‘best’ teams were to be ‘best’ in both accounting and playing, so requirements were first of all sound finance – no more clubs with heavy debts on the verge (more likely beyond) bankruptcy. Those clubs were to meet 4 times against each other during the season, thus providing better show and becoming more competitive simultaneously. Well, still runs 10-team Bundesliga today, but hardly a top European league, so one can question the success of the reform. Panacea it was not… financial troubles remained.
The new league produced old champion: Swarovski-Wacker from Innsbruck. The club won a double, winning the national titles 9 points (in the old system of 2 points for a win) ahead of VOEST (Linz), the champions of 1974.
Pretty kit… what else? The 1970s were the most successful years of the club, when they dominated (kind of) Austrian football, winning 5 titles. This was the third. Add the Austrian Cup to make it sweeter. The Yugoslav (Slovenian) Branko Elsner was building his coaching reputation, although he became better known later. The squad was very good by Austrian standards at the time, but nothing on international stage. It depended on core of players like Manfred Gombasch and Peter Koncilia, who were constant backbone during the winning years. The Dane Ove Flindt-Bjerg and the (West) German Hans Rebele were still here. One of the best goalkeepers of all-time Austrian football Friedl Koncilia was still here too, plus young talent – Kurt Welzl and Didi Constantini. Friedl Koncilia and Kurt Welzl eventually became European stars (and just as a link to Greek football – Welzl played for Olympiakos in 1984) and Constantini – well known and respected coach. But all of this was in the unknown future in 1975 – for the time been, Swarovski-Wacker were just strong in Austria and considering the name of the their sponsor, perhaps seen even as model of stability and ‘sound’ financing. Swarovski firm probably was not as pleased… for they dropped the club soon after, titles or no titles. By the way, there is different name on the shirts of the club – and one may wonder at the Austrian system or the fragility of it – Swarovski’s money seemingly were not enough and another sponsor was brought as well.