Just weeks ago Varnsdorf soccer club were celebrating winning promotion to the Czech first division for the first time in their 77-year history. On Wednesday, however, club officials said Varnsdorf would forego promotion and remain in division two. The reason? Adapting their tiny stadium to top flight specifications would represent too great a financial risk. I discussed this unprecedented situation in Czech football with journalist Michal Petrák, who told me Varnsdorf had weighed up other options before announcing their decision.
I guess they were afraid that if they invested in a stadium and then got relegated again they could go completely bankrupt?
“If they played in Jablonec and got relegated – which I think they quite possibly would – I think it would have been no problem, because they would still be able to play in the second division again at their own stadium.
“But the real problem would be if they played in Jablonec and would not be relegated [laughs].
“Then they would either have to start working on their own stadium, which they have no financial means to do, or to pay some fine – they would be fined for not having started to work on their own stadium.”
What are the technical conditions that the club would have to meet to qualify for the first division? Is it about improving conditions for press and Czech football association officials, or is it about the comfort of fans?
“It’s about the overall conditions. The comfort of fans and press facilities.
“Every top division game has to be streamed live on the internet, so you need a reliable internet connection, for example.
“You need some reliable electricity supply, like, I don’t know, a reserve generator.
“Of course you also need some VIP places. And the comfort of fans comes first.”
What has been the reaction of the players of Varnsdorf to this news? I suppose they knew it was very possible even when they won promotion.
“The reaction is they don’t understand why the second division is being played at all.
“There are, I would say, five teams [of 16] who could realistically think about playing in the top division with minor changes to their stadiums or no changes.
“The others would have been in the same situation like Varnsdorf.”
In a sense there’s no point in being promoted for most of those clubs?
“They would have to find a solution, which might be possible if they won very strong support from the municipal authorities.
“But for the majority of second division teams that would be mission impossible.”
Varnsdorf’s decision is good news for Zlín; they came third in division two and look set to take the free promotion spot.
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