Polonia on the brink of disappearing
6 May ~ The threat of bankruptcy is becoming an increasingly common problem in Polish football. In the last few years, Odra Wodzislaw Slaski, Ruch Radzionkow and most recently LKS Lodz have lost their battles against financial destruction – eventually resurfacing as new entities much lower down the Polish pyramid. Others such as GKS Belchatow and Polonia Bytom are hanging on to their lives by the skin of their teeth. None however, have suffered a dramatic fall like the latest club on the brink of going under; Polonia Warsaw.
Last summer, the capital city's second club were already holding onto their existence with the slightest grip. Eccentric owner Jozef Wojciechowski, now bored of pumping his cash into Polonia, began to strip the club of its assets with the intention of selling its Ekstraklasa licence to the highest bidder. Enter a Silesian businessman called Ireneusz Krol. Owner of the second-level club GKS Katowice at the time, Krol was looking to return top-flight football to the region's capital.
His intention was to merge Polonia with his own GKS, moving them to Katowice and playing under their Ekstraklasa licence. But after weeks of protests from fans of both clubs, Krol's plans were eventually foiled by a 2009 UEFA rule, brought in just two years after a then-second-tier Polonia had swallowed up Dyskobolia Grodzisk Wielkopolski – a small-town club over 350km away, who once knocked Manchester City out of the UEFA Cup – along with their Ekstraklasa licence.
Instead Krol opted to move to Warsaw with Polonia, using the club as a promotive tool for his company Ideon (the club's shirts were emblazoned with the energy group's logo). But while Polonia's fans had avoided the dissolution of their club, their troubles were only just beginning. Though the youthful team surprised everyone by climbing up to third in the table, it was merely glossing over the deep cracks developing within the club. With players unpaid since Krol's arrival, a January exodus saw a very different and significantly weaker Polonia emerge for the season restart.
With results deteriorating, and a steady fall down the table already dampening spirits in northern Warsaw, the impending bankruptcy of Krol and his company has left massive doubts over the future of Polonia. The owner's promises of payments to players have been broken on numerous occasions, while their recent home fixtures have been under threat with the club struggling to pay for both the rent and for security.
There are serious worries among Polonia's fans that their financial status will damage their chance to obtain a licence to play in next year's Ekstraklasa, regardless of their league position. And should the club declare bankruptcy, they could potentially find themselves playing in the Polish fifth tier next term.
While there seemed to be a deal in place for a Polonia supporters' group to purchase the club from Krol for a token sum of one zloty (£0.20), the businessman reneged on the agreement – instead hoping to earn some money from a sale. The problem now is that there is no one willing to part with their cash for a club in a downward spiral. It isn't the first time that Polonia in their current guise have been on the brink of disappearing but the looming licensing decisions mean it could well be the last. Ryan Hubbard, Ekstraklasa Review