The State of Norwegian Club Football

May 22, 2019

Written by:

Eliteserien

Founded: 1937

Most Championships: Rosenborg, 26

Last 5 Winners: Rosenborg (18, 17, 16, 15), Molde (14)

UEFA Ranking: 23rd

Highest Ranked Club: Molde, 104th


Interview with Norwegian football journalist Lars Sivertsen

What’s the current state of Norwegian football?

That’s a big question that’s hard to answer in a concise manner. But there are of course certain metrics we can look at: The UEFA coefficient has our league as the 23rd best league in Europe, up from 29th last year but still behind countries like Cyprus and Belarus. Our national team hasn’t qualified for a major tournament since 2020. Average attendance in the Norwegian top flight was the lowest since 2001, and down almost 50% since 2007 (10,485 vs 5,865).

Winning our group in the Nations League generated some cautious optimism on behalf of the national team and the direction they’re heading in under Lars Lagerback, though you’d still have to consider us outsiders to qualify to the 2020 Euros.

So domestic clubs, in general, are not in a brilliant place but the national team is on the mend after going through a truly terrible period prior to Lagerback taking charge.

During the past few years both Rosenborg and Molde have had some good runs in the Europa League. Have the past few years been successful for Norwegian football or is it just par for the course?

It’s possible that our expectations are still unrealistic since a lot of Norwegians “grew up” with Rosenborg being regulars in the Champions League group stages. It not only got people used to seeing a Norwegian team competing at that level, but it also gave other clubs reason to hope and dream that this was something they could one day emulate.

The reality of modern European club football is probably that teams from a country of our size is unlikely to ever reach those heights with that kind of consistency ever again. Perhaps we don’t fully appreciate the fact that making the group stages of the Europa League is itself not half bad for teams from a league such as ours.

Rosenborg seem to be dominating Norwegian football. Is that a sign of things to come and it is a worrying trend?

This season looks set to be an anomaly as they’ve started very poorly after what already looks liked a doomed managerial appointment, so this season the field is wide open. But Rosenborg dominating is something we’ve been used to.

They won the league every season from 1992 to 2004. After that we had a period of instability on their part, but them winning four straight titles as they have felt more like a return to the norm than a worrying trend as such.

Is there any money in Norwegian football?

The wage levels in the Norwegian league have fallen in recent years. If we go back to, say, 2008, as many as 30 players in the league will have been on a reported salary in excess of 2 million NOK (£177,000 or something with today’s exchange rates), while last year I’d be surprised if the number was over 10.

This is probably a healthy correction as the wages 10 years ago were getting slightly out of hand after a couple of very big domestic TV deals were signed. If I had to make a guess I’d say the league average is probably somewhere around 500 000 or 600 000 NOK now.

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

This is a very mixed bag. I remember watching Rosenborg in the Champions League on TV as a kid with my father and cheering them on almost as if they were the national team, we certainly felt very strongly that they were Norwegian representatives and we were proud when they won. However, I grew up in a very small town where our local team played mostly in the second tier.

My impression, though this is a very unscientific observation, is that supporters of teams who feel the could plausibly challenge Rosenborg domestically were far less likely to cheer their success in Europe. After all, another year of Rosenborg in the Champions League meant another year of them having much, much more money than everyone else.

In later years, I think there is far less interest and emotional investment in general in Rosenborg’s efforts in the Europa League. If they were to make the Champions League again that would ignite the fire for a lot of people who otherwise are not affiliated with Rosenborg, but their Europa League adventures are much less of a draw.

How do you think the Europa League 2 will affect Norwegian EL performances and what has been the reaction to the formation of the competition in Norway? What would you like to see UEFA do to level the playing field more for small European sides?

I suppose it’s more likely that our teams will get results here and there and that more will get to play European football, which people are broadly positive about. Again, being slightly spoilt by Rosenborg’s Champions League legacy I suspect the general population might a bit blasé about what our clubs do in the third tier of European football, but my impression is that the clubs are generally positive about it.

Sarpsborg’s director of football Thomas Berntsen, who is a smart operator, has pointed out that with our recent results in Europe we can’t be too fussy. I think that’s fairly representative for how people within the game think about it.

Interview with Norwegian football journalist Lars Sivertsen

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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