The State of Hungarian Club Football

May 21, 2019

Written by:

OTP Bank Liga

Founded: 1901

Most Championships: Ferencváros, 30

Last 5 Winners: Ferencváros (18/19, 15/16), MOL Vidi (17/18, 14/15), Honvéd (16/17)

UEFA Ranking: 33rd

Highest Ranked Club: MOL Vidi, 131st

Interview with Hungarian football journalist Gergely Marosi

Since the EL was rebranded, only two Hungarian sides have made the group stage of a European competition. Why does Hungary struggle so much in European football?

Most probably because we’re not that very good. I think the financial uncertainty of the 2000 decade, deficiency in strategic thinking and planning, coaching and youth upbringing are the main reasons for this.

It’s clearly not a question of money by now. Teams from leagues that are obviously having less money made it to the group stage. Between 2012 and 2018 there was no Hungarian club in the group stage. 36 other nations had a club or clubs that made it in this period. This shows a systemic problem, I believe.

Hungary haven’t had one team dominate the league like we’ve seen in Belarus, Poland and Bulgaria? Do you think this is a help or a hindrance for Hungarian football?

I wouldn’t like to see an all-dominating local team – it kind of sucks the fun out of the league, even if the team is doing well on the European stage. But I believe we might be heading for a duopoly.

Ferencváros and Vidi are having bigger budgets and better opportunities than the other clubs, and I fully expect them to pull away from the rest of the field. They can afford much better level foreign players than the rivals, same goes for managers and coaching staff.

We might say that the lack of a “super-team” hindered the European progress of Hungarian football, but I’m pretty sure that very few local football fans would’ve liked to see that.

What would be seen as a successful year in Europe for Hungarian fans?

At least one club making the group stage of a competition, preferably Champions League. Two making it would be seen as a very successful year. Surviving until the next spring and the knockout phase is realistically the most we can hope for.

Is there a lot of money in Hungarian football?

A lot more money than a decade ago, for sure. And maybe financially the current period is the best in the history of Hungarian football – with major help from the government (TAO tax return system, infrastructural development, etc). Money is flowing quite free, but I feel it is not (always) used sensibly.

I feel as if some club leaders think that they will be always be fed money and would be always bailed out if they ran out of funds. Looks like the federation president Sándor Csányi feels the same, as he had a very outspoken rant about the state of finances of Hungarian clubs and wasting money.

This period is a historic opportunity in many ways for Hungarian football, whether we like the government’s position in supporting football and sports in general or not.

After the old, state socialist type of club model  and football financing collapsed in the 1990s, two decades were more struggle than anything else. Now the clubs have the helping hand they always wished for. If they don’t take the opportunity, don’t create a sustainable model and drive themselves into the ground, it’s totally on them. And it’d be a huge shame. I hope the money that was channeled in will result in improvement on the field.

Do most of the country get behind the Hungarian sides playing in Europe or is there a lot of tribalism still apparent?

I’m a small club supporter, so I never had any problem of rooting for any Hungarian sides in Europe. I think it’s the same for the majority, though I cannot really imagine hardcore Újpest fans rooting for Ferencváros or vice versa!

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

Mixed would be the best word to put it. I also have mixed feelings. I feel that European football is heading more and more to a closed or quality-tiered competition system, and robbing smaller nations and clubs of the hope that they can meet the big ones would be very sad.

On the other hand, maybe Europa League 2 would provide an opportunity to do better continentally, get experience against foreign teams (not just at friendlies) and could provide some success stories.

I think EL – until the final stages – is interesting mostly for the smaller nations in it. For top league teams it can be a burden. Same will go for EL2. We’ll be interested in “our” groups, not so much the rest.

What would you like to see UEFA do to level the playing field more for small European sides?

I think the split is so great on European level that bridging it is pretty much hopeless. Just look at the money difference, it’s getting ridiculous.

The only thing I can think of is having a full knockout tournament, because that evens the field and produces more surprises. But that will simply not happen, because it makes no sense financially at all.

Interview with Hungarian football journalist Gergely Marosi

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 and over the last few years he's written on a freelance basis for ESPN, WorldSoccer,, among many others.

Twitter @TMortimerFtbl

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