The last decade has been good for Stockholm’s football. Since 2000 each of their three main clubs (Hammarby, AIK and Djurgården) have won titles. In fact collectively they’ve won five of the last ten. As you can read here, life in the 2000s was good for the capital. Yet today, less than a year since AIK clinched the league and cup double, the prognoses for Stockholm has never looked bleaker.
With only four games to go AIK and BP are both lodged in the relegation zone, and at least one is likely to go down. Hammarby are already there and don’t look likely to come back up anytime soon. Djurgården narrowly avoided relegation last season courtesy of the play-offs, and this season can only claim the mantle ‘bäst i stad’ by default. All four are dead broke and with no wealthy Russian or Middle Eastern financers prowling, neither looks likely to mount a title challenge anytime soon. In 2009 the Allsvenskan contained four teams in Stockholm. By 2011 it may only contain one.
For AIK, their troubles started almost immediately after winning last year’s title. Like many clubs all over Europe they spent well beyond their means and financed their success with short-term high interest loans. The bulk of their squad was sold off, while manager Mikael Stahre quickly fled the sinking ship in favour of Greek side Panionios. Further compounding their problems have been continuous problems with hooligans in their recent European fixtures, which have attracted heavy fines from UEFA.
Last week I predicted AIK would avoid relegation, and I stand by it. But if I’m proven wrong and they do go down, it could prove crippling for their finances. They only need to look across town to see how disabling relegation can be. Hammarby were relegated last season after 12 years in the Allsvenskan, and really needed to make a quick return to keep their finances in check. But currently in 8th spot, they haven’t even come close. They’ve already sold their prized asset, talented youngster Linus Hallenius, and more sales will surely follow. They could be stuck in the second tier for a while longer yet.
The ironic thing is that this universal downfall in onfield fortunes is taking place just as Stockholm embarks on a massive stadium expansion. Råsunda is about to be abolished and replaced by the new Swedbank Arena. Hammarby is supposed to move to the new Stockholm Arena (due to be completed in 2012), while Djurgården have been talking about building a new stadium for years. AIK were supposed to move to the new Swedbank Arena once Råsunda is demolished, but a growing movement of fans want the club to build a stadium of their own.
How they are going to pay for these stadiums, and who is going to full them, is another question. Last year SEK 335 million was spent redeveloping Gothenburg’s Gamla Ullevi to increase its capacity to 18,000, and now it is rarely more than half full. The way things are going the folly will be even greater in Stockholm.