Tamas Gruborovics is alright

He didn’t look alright yesterday, after being knocked out by Haka goalkeeper Sasha Dovbnya while challenging for a cross. At that point KTP were, shockingly, 1-0 up after Dovbnya had dropped the ball and substitute Vesa Helenius swept the ball home with his first touch of the ball on 43 minutes. Finnish footballers are extraordinarily quiet on the pitch, and when they all started bellowing at the stretcher men to come on quickly we knew something was seriously wrong.

The game stopped for 15 minutes while an ambulance crew arrived to lift Gruborovics onto a stretcher (the aforementioned stretcher men not wanting to risk exacerbating things). The most striking thing about this interlude was the reluctance of the tannoy man to allow this period of time to go unfilled by music, jingles, or adverts. After a few minutes’ doubtless solemn deliberation, he decided that a serious head injury was best accompanied by The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony.

Thankfully, news from the hospital today indicates that Gruborovics is okay.

The matchday experience was noticeably different yesterday. Straight through the turnstiles we were immediately accosted by bored-looking, pretty young women in FC Haka tops asking us to enter a draw for 4-person VIP ticket to a Haka match. The catch was that we had to join the Haka ‘inner circle’, providing name, address, email address, date of birth, mobile number and operator.

Many football clubs collect this information from as many people as they can, in all their interactions with fans. Haka emphatically do not do this, indeed when I tried to buy a season ticket before a match earlier this season I was told to come back next time as they didn’t have any. When I finally did get it, I just paid my money and was given a card, and FC Haka still know nothing about me.

This is a problem for Sedu Koskinen, Haka’s owner. As a nightclub manager he understands marketing to Finnish people, and some of his ideas are very interesting indeed. He has mentioned getting prettier players, to attract women to Haka games; and filling Tehtaan Kenttä with celebrities, to create a buzz around matches. The lack of a database of customers must be frustrating for him, but you sense that he will turn that around and his keen sense of what suburban, provincial Finland wants will see him at least arrest the decline in Haka’s fortunes.

Highlights here (also of HJK’s 2-1 win in Lahti and Honka’s victory over IFK Mariehamn)


4 Responses

  1. If I could only see the faces of those old geezers at tehtaankenttä when they see Johanna Tukiainen and other C-class celebrities (is there any other class in Finland?) sipping cider next to them and posing for Seiska-magazine… 😀

  2. I’m going to be following this closely, I think. I’ve always thought that football in Finland is a ‘development’ sport, like basketball or hockey in the UK, and the marketing has been somewhat lacking for a sport like that. Maybe this is something common to all Finnish sport – Aleksi Valavuori didn’t last too long at ToPo, for example, and he seems to know what he’s doing.

    Sedu knows what Finnish people find ‘glamorous’, and I reckon he will be successful at least in the short term. The problem comes in the second year – Valkeakoski is a small town, and the market is limited.

    Their ticketing policy for the Cork match seems to be an attempt to erect a fence to keep out people with only ten fingers. You have to go to the bus station in Valkeakoski to get a ticket, but don’t have to pay. If you can’t get there, you have to ring the club and pay €15.

    Some would argue that €15 for the avoidance of a visit to Valkeakoski is a price well worth paying, but I’m not sure it’s the best way to treat season ticket holders. Personally I’m going to use the ‘I’m a journalist’ route, but from a fan’s perspective it’s irritating. Not that I’m a Haka fan.

  3. I can find a million problems in Sedu’s approach to marketing. First of all, finnish people are down to earth and pretty much hate everything about ‘glamour’. And when you think of the profile of the existing football audience, he’s gonna have a hard time bringing in the glamour in finnish football, not to speak of players who are both good and pretty. Is he really serious? He might be successful in the night club field, but football is a totally different game. It seems to me, that he’s trying to create an event, which isn’t good enough for anyone: the people interested in football or the people interested in ‘the buzz’. There are basically three things that make people come to the stadium: 1) success 2) success 3) success.

  4. The thing I always notice about Finnish ‘events’, including sport, is the high ratio of ‘VIPs’ to ‘fans’. It seems like every second person is wearing one of those tags, as a friend of a company that has a few euros spare to write off against tax.

    It’s these people Sedu is aiming for. If you live in Valkeakoski and don’t go and see Haka, you either hate football or have a very good supplier of hard drugs. There’s simply nothing else to do there. And the ‘core audience’ isn’t going to stop going because of the cheerleaders and ‘razzmataz’.

    I imagine that Haka sponsors will pay more if games are regularly featured in Seiska, too. And if sedu the matchmaker can pair off some unfortunate Haka midfielder with the next idols winner…….

    It’s Halpa Halli glamour, sure, but it is going to be very very funny. I have a hunch that it might come off, not least because the actual attendance figures are not that important for most Finnish clubs. Much more important is the exposure for advertisers, which is why they prefer TV rights are given away to freely available channels, rather than sold to a subscription network.

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