Top 10: Football’s Financially Troubled Teams

Published 10/27/2015, 12:53 PM EDT
Football – Chelsea v Fiorentina – International Champions Cup Pre Season Friendly Tournament – Stamford Bridge – 5/8/15. General view during the match Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Couldridge. Livepic

Modern day Football has ceased to be an ordinary sport- it is a ruthless business. While there is money to be made, clubs, especially the ones that fail to achieve much, live a precarious existence balancing revenue streams and money spent on wages, transfers, etc. We take a look at some of the prominent clubs to teeter on the edge of financial meltdown- some of them fell, some made a victorious comeback, while some are now struggling to survive.


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10. Swansea City

Swansea celebrating their League Cup win in 2013

Swansea are a club that is today enjoying life amongst the riches of the Premier League. They’ve firmly cemented their place amongst England’s elite, and even managed to win a trophy- the League Cup in 2013. But things were not always so rosy – the club were down and out, at the bottom of the Football League and close to bankruptcy. Their frenetic rise is nothing short of a miracle- in 2001, a group of local people and the newly-formed Swansea City Supporters Trust joined forces to take control of their beloved club from an uncaring owner. Promotion after promotion followed, and the rest is history.


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9. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves Players were left disappointed after their relegation

Wolves were one of the strongest sides in England in the 1950s and their dominance in the game continued till well into the late 1970s. The once proud club, winners of the League in 1954, 1958 and 1959, found themselves in the fourth division as they struggled to keep up with the cost of developing their Molineux stadium. Two of their stands were even shut for a while due to safety concerns. Wolves returned to prominence after they were saved when the Wolverhampton Council bought the stadium in 1986. They have now become a common name in the Championship, most recently featuring in the Premier League in 2011-12.

8. CSKA Sofia


CSKA Sofia fans in a match against Roma in the Champions League


CSKA Sofia, founded by members of the Bulgarian Army, are Bulgaria’s most successful football team, winning their national league a whopping 31 times. However, they have not won a title since 2008. Financial irregularities and unfunded debts at the club meant that the Bulgarian Football Union denied them the chance to compete in the Bulgarian A-League in 2015-16. As a result, the club have now been relegated to play in the Bulgarian third division.

7. Portsmouth


Portsmouth players celebrate their 2009 FA Cup success

Pompey won the FA Cup as recently as 2008, and were enjoying the sights and sounds of the Premier League till 2010. However, the cash starved club entered Administration earlier that year and were relegated to the Championship. In 2012 they were again relegated, to League One, and again, in 2013, to League Two. They began the 2013–14 season in the fourth tier of the English football league system for the first time since the late 1970s. Ownership issues dogged the club throughout this time, and these were finally resolved in 2013 when the Pompey Supporters Trust bought Fratton Park, making Portsmouth the largest fan owned club in England.

6. Fiorentina

Fiorentina Fans in a match against Bologna

The two time Italian champions Fiorentina were relegated from Serie A in 2001 and as a result of financial problems (they were unable to even pay player wages) meant that they were denied entry into Serie B. The club was refounded under a new owner and started from Serie C2 (The Italian Fourth Division). The team came back to the Serie A by 2003-04, only to be relegated back to Serie B due to the Calciopoli scandal of 2006. Now firmly back in the Serie A, the Florentine outfit have undergone a rejuvenation of sorts and currently sit pretty at the top of the league.

5. Rangers


Fans of Rangers protest their liquidation

Legendary Scottish football club Rangers have won more league titles and trebles than any other club in the world, winning the league title 54 times, the Scottish Cup 33 times and the Scottish League Cup 27 times, and achieving the treble of all three in the same season seven times. They’ve been in the Scottish first flight ever since it’s founding. However, it all came crashing down when the club were liquidated in 2011-12, racking up debts of up to 134 million pounds which they couldn’t pay. They club were subsequently reborn under a new corporate identity and began life in the 4 division. They have since gained two promotions in three seasons.

4. Borussia Dortmund


Dortmund players lift the Bundesliga title

Borussia Dortmund are amongst the most successful clubs in Germany. In 2000, they became the first German club to list on the stock market. The early 2000s were a miserable time for the north-west German club, with financial mismanagement leading to a heavy debt burden on the club and the sale of the Westfalenstadion. However, such is the nature of the Bundesliga that fierce rivals Bayern Munich loaned out 2 million Euros to the club. Dortmund has returned to being a force to be reckoned with since the turn of the decade under the guidance of manager Jurgen Klopp and now Thomas Tuchel.

3. Chelsea


Abramovich watches on at Stamford Bridge

Few would expect Chelsea to figure on a list of financially troubled teams. But before Roman Abramovich’s roubles powered the Blues to an era of unprecedented success, there was a period of severe uncertainty surrounding the West London club. Chelsea tried to build a new stand in the 1980s and the cost of redevelopment sent the club into financial paralysis. They were relegated to the second division, and almost to the third. Ken Bates swooped in to save the club then, and relative prosperity followed. But again in the early part of the 2000s Chelsea were facing trouble before Abramovich turned out to be their White Knight.

2. Leeds United


Leeds Players left disappointed after Valencia knocked them out in the Champions League Semis

The story of Leeds is one of the most tragic stories of the English top flight. Leeds won the league in 1991-92, and were Champions League semi-finalists in 2001. Yet, within six years they had fallen down to League Two. What went wrong? The club took loans whose payment was based on the riches they would have gained from qualification to the latter stages of the Champions League. However, they lost out to Newcastle in 2002 and the full extent of their financial problems revealed itself. Leeds plummeted, and were only saved when Ken Bates, the saviour of Chelsea, bought the club in 2005.


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1. Parma



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Parma Fans stand in support of their team

Serie A club Parma folded in 2015 after running up crazy debts (as much as $106 Million). The team finished as high as 6 in 2014, qualifying for the Europa League, but were unable to play after they couldn’t pay their tax bills. They were unable to pay player wages all of last season, and a match against Udinese was abandoned because they didn’t have enough money to pay the stewards. Their youth coach said that they didn’t even have money to pay for water bottles! All this meant that Parma AC was dissolved, and Parma was reborn as Parma Calcio 1913 in the Serie D.



Vinayak Mishra

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