Wage concern

Economic problems for Norwegian clubs have meant they have looked for outside help in financing player wages and transfers. Ole P Pedersen reports

On the face of it, football in Norway is booming. The national team has qualified for Euro 2000, two clubs are in the Champions League and the Premiership remains a popular destination for Norwegian players. However, all is not as it seems.

Economic realities are leading to some strange transfers. Take Raymond Kvisvik, for example, who is owned by his grandmother. Kvisvik, who plays for Brann Ber­gen, took his former club Moss to court, claiming that his grandmother, his brother and himself were entitled to a large part of the transfer fee when Kvis­vik left Moss for the bigger club in Ber­gen. The Kvisvik family had a registered company which had a stake in the player, they claimed.

The court rejected the claim last month, but the case is not an isolated ex­ample. Tor Trondsen, a centre half who plays for Moss, is currently owned by a couple of local businessmen. They have invested in the club and in return they get a piece of the local talent. Sigurd Rushfeldt, who joined Benfica from Rosenborg this summer, had a similar deal when he played for Tromsø. The businessmen who invested in him made close to £200,000 on the transfer.

Why is this happening? The main reason is that a number of Premier League clubs are in deep financial trouble. Brann had to sell their top scorer Kjetil Løvvik to Grasshoppers this summer in order to avoid bankruptcy. The club will be around £7 million in the red come the end of the year. Its holding company have just launced a new share issue, but investors are reluctant to meet the asking price. The  club will have to find money somewhere, may­be even by selling their stadium.

Viking Stavanger, a club with great traditions, will have emptied their bank account during the winter. They are desperately trying to offload their star player, Swedish international Magnus Svensson. If they can get more than £1 million for him, they’ll survive – for the time being.

Molde, heavily backed by Wimbledon own­ers Kjell Inge Røkke and Bjørn Rune Gjel­sten, looked set to lose more than £1 million this season until they unexpectedly managed to qualify for the Champions League. Skeid, a small club from Oslo who are trying not to join the bonanza, had to send their top scorer André Schei Lindbæk on loan to Molde for the rest of the season in order to survive. As a result of having lost their star striker they will probably be relegated.

In Norway, the big clubs are basically split in two: the football club and its holding com­pany, which may or may not be listed on the Stock Exchange. The holding company us­ually owns the stadium or the financial assets of the club and pays the players’ wages.

Those wages are spiralling. Rosenborg are leading the way, but even a mod­est Premier League player can make £40,000 in a year. With average att­endances just above 5,000, income is limited. With every club trying to catch up with Rosenborg, the transfer market is hotting up, though Rosenborg themselves still attract all the best players. Nineteen-year-old John Carew joined them from Vålerenga this sum­mer for a national record fee of £2 mil­lion. And while Rosenborg pay around 70 per cent of their wages as bonuses, most other clubs do it the other way around: high basics, low bonuses.

With young players now signing short-term contracts, waiting for a more lucrative offer abroad, clubs are in danger of losing a sizeable chunk of their transfer income – money that may be needed to keep Viking and Brann afloat through the winter.

From WSC 153 November 1999. What was happening this month