The State of Finnish Club Football

May 21, 2019

Written by:

Veikkausliiga

Founded: 1990

Most Championships: HJK, 20

Last 5 Winners: HJK (18, 17,  14), IFK Mariehamn (16), SJK (15)

UEFA Ranking: 38th

Highest Ranked Club: HJK, 113th


Interview with Finnish football writer Tuomas Ylenius

As a relative minnow of European Football, what do Finnish fans and teams expect from their European campaigns and what would qualify as a success?

The answer for this can be divided in two: HJK fans expect Euro success, whether it is realistic or not. They always dream of group stages, and at the very least they expect their team to advance more than just one or two rounds. Since Lehkosuo took charge in 2014, HJK has only lost to teams in European games that are bigger or somewhat equal to their stature, but still fans have seen last couple of years as a failure in Europe.

HJK also very boldly made it their official goal to reach the group stages in Europe this season. They aim to be a “big nordic club” in future, in the sense Rosenborg and FC Kobenhavn are. Currently HJK’s player budget is 1,5 million, so it’s still a far cry from what they want to be.

Then for the other teams. Generally the expectations have gone down since Finnish teams have had hard enough time going through the first round of Europa League qualifiers in the current system. I think at the lowest fans expect not to get beaten by teams from Iceland and and Estonia etc. But that does happen sometimes. Winning any round is a plus, and of course fans always dream of beating bigger clubs.

How much do the fans and teams look forward to European competition?

Even with the regular disappointments (“puppelointi” as we say, it means the same in sports lingo as choking), the Euro matches are still a highlight of the summer for fans. There are always few who travel to away games anywhere.

In Finland the general public is also more interested in European matches than regular league matches. Even if HJK faces a club from Wales (worse opponent than any in the Finnish league), it will draw more crowd than Finnish opponents.

Is a Champions League / Europa League game involving Finnish side watched by most of the nation?

The qualification matches aren’t, for one reason they are only shown in pay per view services, not on a national free platform. When HJK last time reached the play-off round, national broadcaster YLE showed those matches and the group stage matches were broadcast on another free channel. I don’t think they got crazy viewer statistics, but certainly higher interest than regular Finnish club football.

When HJK played in CL group stages 1998, they were adopted by the whole football crowd. They played in Olympiastadion and people traveled from other towns to see them play. Even these days, the fans of Finnish clubs wish well to each other in Europe and watch the matches, no matter what club plays there. Maybe with the exception that some Lahti and HIFK fans might not support HJK even there.

How is the EL viewed in general by Finnish fans?

Even if the EL itself is less sexy than the mighty UCL, playing in the EL group stages is a huge dream for any Finnish club. For HJK the 2014-15 EL season was considered a big success, on the pitch and also financially. No other club has reached any group stage.

How do you think the Europa League 2 will affect Finnish EL performances and what has been the reaction to the formation of the competition in Finland?

It will make it easier to dream about some sort of group stages and bigger monies. I think it has got mixed reviews. Fans like that there is a better chance for success with this new competition, but they don’t want the small countries reduced to playing only in the “third tier” of European football. Getting into UCL and EL groups seems to get tougher than it used to be, so that part is less liked.

Do you think UEFA are doing enough to help the minnows of European football and what can they do to further help them?

Probably not, what with these leaked UCL plans and all. In the national team side they have made couple of good moves, the expansion of the European Championships to 24 teams and creating the Nations League.

I think that at the very least UEFA should keep the dream of UCL and EL alive for teams from smaller countries too, and not make them all about the big clubs. The current system is pretty good, though very tough road for smaller countries.

Interview with Finnish football writer Tuomas Ylenius

Find all your Champions League betting odds here

A Europa League infographic


Author: Tom Mortimer

Tom is the editor at Betting Circle and has been creating online content for over 10 years. Tom mainly writes about sport and gambling, but every now and then also delves into fleshier subjects like politics and psychology. When he was 18 he created HungarianFootball.com and over the last few years he's written on a freelance basis for ESPN, WorldSoccer, Goal.com, among many others.

Twitter @TMortimerFtbl


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