It’s February 2018 and Ostersunds FK have just won 2-1 at Arsenal in the Europa League.
The team – managed by Englishman Graham Potter – are out of the competition on aggregate, but victory at Emirates Stadium is a fitting end to a fairytale 14-game run to the last 16.
Their achievement is all the more remarkable when you consider it is only eight years since they were in the fourth division.
But now, 20 months on from that memorable night in London, the club are facing a fight for their future.
“For us football lovers there is no alternative,” read a club statement posted on their website this week. “Ostersund without an elite football team is unthinkable.”
The club’s financial figures are stark.
They need to raise 15m Swedish krona (kr) – about £1.2m – by the end of the year to keep the club running, with 10m kr of that sum to be paid by the end of the month. So far 6m kr has been raised.
A 1.4m kr tax bill needs to be paid by 2 November.
Fans and companies are being asked to donate to the cause, and the club desperately needs sponsorship.
“We ask you to think back on all the wonderful memories and what joy and pride we experienced together with OFK,” the club’s statement said. “If we are to experience it again, we must together help to get out of this crisis.”
Potter – now managing Brighton in the Premier League – has donated, as have his coaching staff and former players.
Former chairman Daniel Kindberg was the man who hired Potter and oversaw the club’s rise to the top flight for the first time in 2015. Winning the Swedish Cup brought European football to the northern city.
Kindberg has been on trial in Sweden accused of serious financial crimes – accusations he denies – with the judge’s verdict expected on 5 November.
The club say they have lost 7m krona in sponsorship revenue and failed to bring in 20m kr in player sales and 5m kr in matchday revenue that they had budgeted for.
They are also under a transfer ban from Fifa over the transfer of Saman Ghoddos to French club Amiens, a decision they intend to appeal against at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“It is a critical situation,” manager Ian Burchnall told BBC Sport. “This has come quickly and out of nowhere considering where the club was a short period of time ago.
“The club had an unbelievable journey, but a lot of things behind the scenes have happened since then.
“We are not the only club in Sweden who have economic problems. And it is so common in football – just look at Bury and Bolton.
“It is really hard to compete at the top and create a sustainable model.”
- The remarkable rise of Ostersunds
Burchnall succeeded compatriot Potter when the latter left for Swansea in June 2018.
The club finished sixth in Burchnall’s first season in charge, but are now 13th, three points off the relegation places, with three games remaining.
There are seven English players at the club, including former Chelsea midfielder Charlie Colkett. Ravel Morrison spent five months there before leaving for Sheffield United in July.
“This year the club had its best ever start in the Swedish league, but since the summer it has been very difficult with what is happening off the pitch,” said Burchnall, 36.
“We have probably been in the news this year more than any other team in Sweden for many different reasons, but mostly for the off-field problems, the ongoing court case, the economic problems and the Fifa transfer embargo.
“It is a really young squad. At one point we played the youngest team in the Swedish league for 20 years. Of course it affects them – either consciously or subconsciously.
“They are a fantastic group, but you can feel sometimes you have to work hard to keep them focused on football matters.”
Burchnall said the loss of the club, which has average attendances of 4,800, would be “huge”.
“Over the years Graham and his team and I have sustained top-flight football in the north of Sweden, where they had not had it for years,” he said. “To have a team up here competing is a massive thing.
“The fans here are unbelievable. They almost relentlessly support no matter what the situation. It is testament to them and a lot of people have come forward to try raise funds quickly.”
The club’s media manager, Niclas Lidstrom, refuses to discuss the nightmare scenario, saying simply: “We will fix this.”
And Burchnall is still planning for next season.
“I know a lot of good people are working hard to do the right thing, and hopefully put a platform in place to keep growing the team,” he said.
“I have brought in a lot of young and talented players on longer contracts, with a view to building something for the future and put out a team that has real asset value in terms of what we can sell players for in the future.
“We have to look forward. I am planning for the next game, but when we discuss the squad and players, we talk as if we have a long-term view on it.”
Share this post if you enjoyed! 🙂
Read more at this link (News Source).