Finnish club go down on final day
2 November ~ On October 1, 2012 a Finnish football club called Haka became famous courtesy of YouTube. Bottom of the Veikkausliiga (Finnish Premier Division), they were 2-0 up at home to the leaders HJK and cruising towards a first victory in three months. While defending, the ball was put into touch for a throw-in. Three ballboys queued up to throw a ball back to HJK; one was returned to play around 18 yards out, another was teed up 20 yards away, while a third came back in near the halfway line. HJK scored with the ball by the box and the match ended 2-2.
Last weekend, Haka were relegated from the top division by one point, despite winning their final two games. On the deciding day fellow strugglers Jaro managed an unlikely 2-1 win at third-place TPS and survived. Haka have won nine Finnish championships, the last as recently as 2004. They also reached the furthest stage in Europe of any Finnish club, a quarter-final Cup-Winners Cup defeat to eventual winners Juventus in 1984.
But these are different times. Haka almost went bankrupt in 2009 and while there isn't a huge amount of TV money in Finland at the top level, there will be a big drop in revenue in 2013. Several Finnish clubs are struggling financially – even the recent cup winners Honka have warned that they may not be able to afford a licence to compete in the Veikkausliiga next season.
The average home attendance at the club's Tehtaan kentta stadium was over 1,400 in 2012, and 400 fans made the 150-mile trip to Vaasa to watch Haka fail in their last match. The promise of games against nearest neighbours Ilves, who have been promoted into the second tier, may keep attendances at a reasonable level. RoPS were relegated to the second division last year but went on to take the title by 12 points. It's hard to gauge whether Haka will be able to follow suit but to stop themselves becoming a footnote in Finnish history they will need to get back up quick before the money runs out for good. Rich Nelson www.escapetosuomi.com