Finnish football league season gets under way
Clubs cut back on player budgets
Just as league and cup campaigns in Britain and Central Europe are approaching their climax, the Finnish football league season gets under way today with a full round of matches.
Helsinki HJK take on TP-47 from Tornio in the Finnair Stadium this evening, with a kick-off at 7 p.m. HJK, one of Finland's most illustrious clubs and the only side to have made it into the European Champions League competition proper, finished a disappointing 6th last season and are going into the new campaign with a much younger-looking squad than is customary.
TP-47 won promotion to the Veikkaus League last season and managed to stay in the top flight, finishing 10th. The northerners will be operating on the league's smallest budget this summer, just EUR 450,000.
As a general rule, all clubs have tightened their budgetary belts, with the overall players' wage-bill reduced from EUR 8.2 million last year to EUR 6.8 million this season.
The pre-season favourites MyPa (Myllykosken Pallo) are running the largest budget, at 1.55 million euros. The club could only finish 8th last year, but won the Finnish Cup as a consolation prize.
Another fancied side is FC Haka from Valkeakoski, last season's champions. Valkeakoski have taken the title five times since 1995, often under the direction of English-born coach Keith Armstrong, who now plies his trade with HJK Helsinki.
The other local side in the Helsinki area is Allianssi of Vantaa. They sprang a surprise last season in finishing runners-up to FC Haka, and have already got off to a bright start this spring by taking the League Cup.
KuPS from Kuopio and MIFK from Mariehamn in the Åland Islands were promoted at the end of last season. In the case of MIFK it was a historic moment, as they are the first team from the islands to make it to the top echelon.
HJK Helsinki - TP-47 (Tornio)
Inter (Turku) - Allianssi (Vantaa)
FC Haka (Valkeakoski) - KuPS (Kuopio)
MIFK (Mariehamn, Åland) - RoPS (Rovaniemi)
FC KooTeePee (Kotka) - TPS (Turku)
FC Lahti - MyPa (Myllykoski)
Tampere United - Jaro (Pietarsaari)