Start of Veikkausliiga season may have to be postponed amidst wrangles over clubs' eligibility
Number of teams in this year’s league will be determined only two days before opening round of season
The domestic football scene continues to be plagued with just the wrong sort of publicity. Clubs on the verge of bankruptcy, alleged betting scandals, numerous arrests of players in Rovaniemi on match-fixing charges, and dodgy cash infusions to a Tampere club have done nothing to warm the hearts of the Finnish FA or Veikkausliiga, the country's premier football league.
Matters came to something of a head at the beginning of this week. The Finnish FA's team licence committee’s negative stand with regard to the operational capacity of Tampere United has now driven Veikkausliiga into uncharted waters.
In practice, the committee’s decision to deny Tampere United's right to take part means that the number of teams to compete in the league this season will become clear only two days before the scheduled start of the league programme.
On Monday the committee saw that it had all the right to cancel the Tampere team’s place in Veikkausliiga. Still, TamU has been given two weeks to file a reply.
Managing Director Kari Haapiainen of the Helsinki side HJK is ready to consider the possible postponing of the start of the season because of the difficult situation.
“The situation is untenable for the teams”, Haapiainen says. “At the moment we do not even know how the series will commence in practice.”
At the head office of the league, the possibility of postponing the opening of the season has also been discussed.
“We are looking into it. But right now we are still progressing in accordance with the agreed timetable”, says Veikkausliiga CEO Timo Marjamaa.
Marjamaa admits that the start of the season is approaching fast.
”The schedule is really challenging, but the protection of law comes first”, Marjamaa continues, referring to the situation with TamU.
The possible postponing of the kick-off day of the league will be decided jointly by the FA and the Veikkausliiga board.
“The matter will certainly be on the agenda of the next meeting”, says Veikkausliiga chairman Lasse Lehtinen.
Apart from the starting date, the league’s format is a cause of another headache. Initially the season was to be played as a 14-team home & away series.
AC Oulu, however, has already lost its place in this season’s Veikkausliiga. Also TamU’s position seems somewhat hopeless, so the league looks likely to shrink into a 12-team series instead.
According to information obtained by Helsingin Sanomat, within the league community someone has also suggested that the league could start as a normal home & away series, and then - in the event that TamU loses its licence on the eve of the season - it could be turned into a triple series.
This way the teams would end up playing 33 games instead of the initial 26. For the clubs left in the chase, a triple series would bring more games and more income.
But it could also cause problems.
“At the very least adding to the number of games would complicate the preparations for euro games”, Haapiainen of HJK points out.
The difficult situation was partly caused by the league community itself. If the Football League, which is a separate organisation from the FA and runs the Veikkausliiga, had not first cancelled TamU’s membership, the team very likely would have obtained its licence from the FA without conditions.
The cancellation of the membership resulted in a EUR 100,000 loss of income for TamU, which in turn affected the licence committee’s decision. The Veikkausliiga programme is meant to commence on April 28th.
In February, the FA team licence committee decided not to grant a league licence to AC Oulu, because of the team’s financial difficulties.
The licences of RoPS of Rovaniemi and Tampere United will be next at stake. RoPS was allowed to keep its licence, despite the fact that several overseas players in the squad are under investigation or in custody over alleged match-fixing in connection with Asian betting markets.
TamU’s fate will be decided on April 26th. In the winter TamU accepted EUR 300,000 from a Singapore company that is also suspected of organising match-fixing in football.
As a result, the Football League cancelled the team’s membership on Monday.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Football betting scandal may escalate (18.3.2011)
Match-fixing suspicions widen to cover ten Finnish football games (16.3.2011)
Finland-Bolivia football friendly was cancelled over match-fixing suspicions (10.3.2011)
Finland´s premier football league Veikkausliiga likely to be played with 13 teams (8.2.2011)