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Salzburg show how not to do a takeover

15 Sep 2010 08:49:54

| Submit Comments| Comments (86)| Printable Version1/1Play SlideshowClose MapRed Bull Salzburg boss Huub StevensImagine that Sheikh Mansour had swept into City in 2008 and declared: ?This is a new club with no history.? In this nightmare scenario, he abolished the sky blue colours, changed the club name to Manchester Etihad and banned anyone, who dared to protest. There truly would have been a Blue revolution, though not of the kind which the Abu Dhabi group?s more sensitive takeover has effected. Spare a thought, then, for traditional fans of Salzburg, against whom the Blues kick off their Europa League group campaign in Austria tomorrow night. For that is precisely what happened to their club five years ago, when proud old SV Austria Salzburg, who had been knocking around for 72 years and had won three Austrian league titles and reached the 1994 Uefa Cup final, found itself being bought. New owner Dietrich Mateschitz ? the billionaire owner of energy drink company Red Bull ? went into the club with all the delicacy and sensitivity of a red bull in a china shop. A club which traditionally played in violet and white was ?re-branded? Red Bull Salzburg, had its colours changed to the corporate colours of red and white, and the badge changed to the Red Bull motif. It was part of Red Bull?s drive to associate their brand name with sports franchises ? they also bought up New York Metro Stars, clubs in Germany and Brazil and two motor racing teams, re-naming them all. Salzburg fans who dared to protest were banned from the stadium, their objections dismissed as ?kindergarten stuff?, and the club website declared the club was founded in 2005, rubbing out its entire history. Banners, flags and drums were banned, and replaced with a choreographed ?matchday experience? of laser shows, celebrity kick-offs and It?s A Knockout-style entertainment. The beautiful Austrian town, most famous as the birthplace of Mozart and the setting of The Sound Of Music, was suddenly alive with the sound of dissent. Traditionalist fans set up the Violett-Weiss initiative to campaign against Red Bull?s attempts to eradicate their history. They received minimal support from the Austrian FA, who merely insisted the ?Founded in 2005? claim be removed from the website. But other fans were seduced by Mateschitz?s promise of a 30m euros budget, which he claimed would make Salzburg a major European force within three to five years. City fans can relate to the temptation of that kind of promise! The fans split into two camps, the red-whites who accepted the changes, and the violet-whites, who eventually set up their own club ? SV Austria Salzburg ? in the seventh division of Austrian football. They have achieved four successive promotions and now play in the third division. But Red Bull Salzburg ploughed on regardless, and the promise of riches and success and the Americanisation of the ?matchday experience? doubled attendances. Still, the average 14,000 crowds tend to rattle around inside the 32,000 capacity Red Bull Arena. Italian manager Giovanni Trappatoni  was drafted in, with Germany legend Lothar Matthaus as his assistant, and they won the Austrian Bundesliga title at the first attempt. Trappatoni left halfway through the following season to take over the reins of the Republic of Ireland, and in came experienced Dutch manager Co Adriaanse, who won the title the following year and then cleared off to manage in Qatar. He was succeeded by another Dutchman, Huub Stevens, who knows all about Nigel de Jong, Vincent Kompany and Jerome Boateng ? he managed them at Hamburg. Stevens made it three titles in four years, but the European superpower status Matechitz promised failed to materialise. In four attempts, Salzburg, who are forced to drop the Red Bull name in European competition due to UEFA rules on commercialism, have failed to reach the group stages of the Champions League. The latest failure came last month, when they lost 2-3 at home to Hapoel Tel Aviv before drawing the return leg. Any dreams Salzburg fans might have had about a City-style player recruitment drive also fell short of expectation. They brought in Germany internationals Thomas Linke and Alexander Zickler from Bayern Munich, but that only brought domestic success, and both have now left. The team is now based largely around Austrian internationals Franz Schiemer, Jakob Jantscher and Roman Wallner but they have had a poor start to the season. But City cannot afford any complacency. Last season Salzburg proved their credentials at this level by winning all six Europa League group games, beating Lazio, Villarreal and Levski Sofia home and away.| Submit Comments| Comments (86)| Printable VersionAdd A CommentEnter your comments:Sending


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