By Svend Frandsen
Two Swedish Allsvenskan clubs have launched initiatives to limit their squads, cut financial costs and groom individual talents faster for first-team football.
Örebro SK and AIK Solna have both introduced sister-club schemes with sides from the second division, BK Forward and FC Café Opera Djursholm respectively, which they hope will provide a new model for Swedish football that might see clubs become financially more viable and also improve at international level.
Step in the right direction
In practice, AIK's agreement with Café Opera will enable players from AIK who are still not ready for senior action to step into Café Opera's side in the second division, while AIK continue to pay their wages. This will not only strengthen the second division side but also give the player a chance to play regularly in a strong league, which is certainly a step up from playing reserve-team football.
AIK chairman Sanny Åslund was delighted to have found a club to co-operate with in this way. Åslund said: "If a player can play regular first-team football in the second division I'm sure he'll become a much better player. That is something we'll benefit from and Café Opera will of course also benefit from it as they will be able to use our players."
Free movement between clubs
The deals will be effective from the new year and will be further developed during the course of 2003. The clubs hope that players will be able to switch teams within the space of a week and outside of the normal transfer deadlines in operation in the Swedish league - a plan that has been met great enthusiasm by clubs in the two divisions but still has to be approved by the Swedish Football Association (SvFF).
"There are still a lot of issues to discuss, but we've taken the first steps in what we believe could be a very good solution", said Åslund. One issue that needs to be discussed is what happens if Forward or Café Opera win promotion to the Allsvenskan. "Yes, that is certainly something that we need to resolve", said Åslund.
Reserve sides to merge
Another consequence of the clubs' co-operation is the creation of a joint reserve side. Players from AIK will go join Café Opera players in a merged reserve squad, which will enable both clubs to cut down their squads significantly to free financial resources. "This is of course a financial issue - we can decrease the amount of players in our squad, and by doing so we'll get a much better wage structure", said Åslund.
Neither AIK nor Örebro had any doubts in deciding on their second division partner. For Örebro, Forward was the obvious choice as the clubs have had a very good relationship over the years. For AIK the choice of Café Opera, a club founded only in 1991, was based on their lack of tradition.
Youth a virtue
"Café Opera are a unique club in a way," said Åslund. "They are very young and so don't have the tradition that a lot of other clubs have. I mean look at where I live - there are two clubs in the fourth division struggling for domination. They've spoken about merging but it can't be done due to the tradition within the clubs."
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