Tampere United had a reorganisation recently. Well not very recently, but not that long ago. It was felt that the board as it stood was unwieldy and unable to react quickly, so a major streamlining exercise has taken place and now the Limited Company’s board has just five members: Jari Viita (Chairman), Tim Rowe (Vice Chairman), Kalervo Kummola, Pauli Ruoholahti and Reijo Riihimäki.
It is hoped that this will enable Tampere United to implement their strategy to become a leading Nordic club over the next 5 years. As part of this strategy they will need to multiply their income by a factor of 5 and drastically increase their crowds, while competing regularly in Europe.
The interesting part of all this boardroom manouvreing is the very Finnish way it has been carried out. The end result is similar to what would probably happen in Britain, with the board representing a majority of the shares they can effectively do what they like.
One thing that might help Tampere United to gain local support is that there is a representative of the Social Democrat Party, Pauli Ruoholahti, and someone from Kokoomus (the right wing party in Finland), Kalervo Kummola. Kummola has long been involved in Tampere United and helped support the club when it was in its infancy. He is a good man to have on your side in Finland, as the president of the national ice hockey federation.
Ruoholahti is active in the Suomen Palloliitto, which is obviously a handy contact for an upwardly mobile club to have. Tampere United are aiming to be the first Finnish club in the modern era to consolidate a presence in the Champions League. HJK had one season in the Champions League group stages in 1998-99, and had a respectable tally of five points. Their best players all left straight after though, and they were unable to maintain the momentum.
Other Nordic clubs have done so, but only with the assistance of a vibrant domestic competition. Finland is still a way behind Norway, Sweden and Denmark in terms of sponsorship revenue and attendances, and this is the major problem for clubs trying to make the step up to compete with the likes of AIK, Rosenborg, Brondby and FC Copenhagen. AIK, for instance, play several home games a season in front of crowds exceeding 30,000. The average crowd in the Swedish and Norwegian leagues exceeds the average capacity of stadia in Veikkausliiga.
The trend is upwards in Veikkausliiga attendance figures, but the size of the task for the new board is formidable. The problem is that for football in Finland to really take off, it has to have some successes-Tampere United’s initial crowds this season reflect the poor weather and the relative attraction of the opposition rather than the fact that the team are the Finnish champions and play entertaining football.
That will have to change if Tampere United’s strategy is to succeed, and there are signs that the continued good form of the club is starting to catch the imagination of the locals. A decent European run could solidify this support, and with a favourable First Round draw they will be confident of progression. After that they could draw Glasgow Rangers, possibly the ideal combination of a massive crowd and a decent chance of an upset.