Only a handful of brand names spring to mind when thinking of sports teams. Sure, sponsorship and sport have gone hand in hand for decades. Car manufacturers sponsor formula one teams, banks sponsor leagues and betting companies sponsor anything from events, stadiums and even podcasts. The principal issue with this though is that it is very short term marketing. You can often tell the rough age of someone by what they call the English League Cup, personally the Carling Cup, possibly the best thing to bear the name Carling. Younger people, mercifully, may not have a clue what Carling is these days, instead, calling it by a different name, perhaps an energy drink.*
(*all other energy drink brand names will be redacted from this blog.)
So how does a brand make sure their name is not lost to the next highest bidder? Simple really, purchase the team and rebrand it to contain your name. Personally I have no issue with this. Having followed English football since the earliest Premier League years I have seen various sides receive investment and change their fortunes. How would I feel if Chelsea were renamed to Gazprom West London? It honestly wouldn’t affect me, but it’s not my club so perhaps I can’t comment. Sure, as a Stoke City fan I cringe at our home games being played at the Bet365 Stadium, but it doesn’t keep me up at night any later than my children already do.
April 2005 saw Austrian energy drink manufacturers Red Bull purchase Austria Salzburg, effectively wiping their history. The club originally claimed to have been founded in 2005 and removed all things synonymous with its former iteration. The history stretching back to 1933 has now been added to the club site, but this was too little too late for some fans. Despite the kind offer to maintain the former club colour purple in the away goalkeeper socks, some fans could not be appeased. A breakaway club “SV Austria Salzburg” was formed taking on the original purple colour, badge and name. They currently play in the Salzburger Liga, the fourth tier, although have been as high as the second division.
Salzburg was Red Bulls first acquisition of a football club, although Formula one teams were purchased at a similar time. 2006 saw Red Bull’s takeover of MLS side Metrostars and rename to New York Red Bulls, this time keeping some of the history. In 2009 the company expanded to buy amateur club Leipzig, renaming them to RasenBallsport (RB) Leipzig. Leipzig are now the more lucrative option for the company, and I won’t even start on how that is seen by many German fans. Salzburg is now seen by many as a proving ground for many young players, who will then go on to Leipzig or beyond once they graduate.
Domestically it is probably easier to note the seasons where Red Bull did not win the Austrian Bundesliga, rather than the ones they did. Since their first title as ‘Red Bull Salzburg’ in the 2006/07 season, only thrice has another club been able to win. In 2007/08 and 2012/13 the two Vienna clubs were champions, first Rapid then Austria Wien, with RBS runners up, and in 2010/11 they were three points behind Sturm Graz. Ten league titles in 13 seasons is domination not seen by many leagues, and, for me, it’s part of the attraction. I have never taken on the top team in a league before, it isn’t how I chose to play the game. I prefer to be the underdog, but I will get a taste of that in each European adventure. My run to the Copa Sudamericana semi-finals with Amèrica was great in FM19. My side was not quite the best in the country and the country was not the best on the continent. To come so close to a continental final with an underdog was great and one of the highlights of the save for me. Something I want to repeat this year in Europe.
As for the Austrian Cup, only once in the last seven seasons has someone other than Red Bull Salzburg lifted the trophy. Dominating domestically may sound easy, but it comes with a lot of pressure from the off. Aside from maybe Europe, I will go into every game expecting to win.
Taking over a league’s perennial champions may have its pressure, but I also envisage pressure in Europe. From the first season, the Austrian Bundesliga champions will qualify for the Champions League group stage which is ideal. Not having to qualify removes the risk of missing out on the big payday which comes from the competition should we start slowly. The last thing I want from a save like this is for the season to be over with elimination before July. It does, however, put us right in with the big sides. We need to compete in every game to keep the coefficient high enough in order to not lose the qualification place. Strengthening the other sides in the league a little will also help on this front.
2019/20 is the first appearance by Red Bull Salzburg in the Champions League group stage. It is, in fact, the first appearance for the Salzburg club, in any form, since 1995, then called Casino Salzburg. Each season in recent years has seen the domestic giants flop at the qualification stage. If not for them obtaining direct qualification to the group stages this season they may have missed out again, though they do seem to have improved in recent Europa League runs. It is likely their recent performances in the Europa League has helped to improve the coefficient enough to grant access this season. A semi-final exit to Marseille in 2018 and last season to Napoli in the round of 16 are the only notable appearances deep into a European competition of late.
One of the key new features of FM20 is the five year plan agreed with the board upon taking your position as manager, it is something that fills me with nervous excitement. Firstly I am interested to see how well our aims align, but also hope their expectations run alongside our ability. I have my own personal five year objectives for the club, outlined below.
2019/2020 – league champions, Austrian cup semifinal, seven points in the Champions League group
2020/2021 – league and cup champions, third place in Champions League group stage
2021/2022 – domestic treble, progress to knockout stage of Champions League
2022/2023 – unbeaten league season, cup double, Champions League semi final
2023/2024 – domestic treble, Champions League winners.
This is definitely far too ambitious, but I see no reason why some of these things can’t come to fruition. Domestically I don’t see why we cannot achieve this, perhaps the unbeaten season would be hard considering the unknown nature of each game. In Europe I’ll be happy to compete and progress. I’d love to win the Europa League, but as our main aim should be Champions League progress, I’ll never aim to be in the competition. Should we drop in though, I’ll try to win.
The aims I have set out differ a lot from the clubs own five year plan. I do imagine this will change over time, perhaps at contract renewal stage, or as we begin each season. Our targets are aligned in the first season and, while the cup always has potential upsets along the way, should be obtainable.
The club vision looks like an FM players dream, at least with respect to signing players. Being required to sign under 20-year-olds for the first team and under 18-year-olds for the future is a lot of what I do in most saves. The concern from the AccordingtoFM back room staff would be the playing style set out. Having to play high tempo, entertaining and possession based football is not something we have done in the last few years, it’s not what Pulis’ legacy was built on. I did move to Salzburg with this style of play in mind so I will be more attacking, but good to have these things outlined on day one. The only other requirement from the board is to maintain our status in Austria and work within a wage budget, which I have been good at in the past.
The above details were from the beta release of the game, so changes could happen. They do fit with what I was expecting however, so I don’t see much that would change.
Next time I take a look ahead at the possible line up of Red Bull Salzburg 2049 based on the genetic makeup of the current players. Oh and tactics, I’ll look at my 5-4-1 formation. I’ll post it on FMBase once it’s locked in.
TLDL: I’m going to win stuff if Austria or get sacked in 6 months.
Note: all images used in this post are not mine, if you own any of them please do email me and I’ll share 100% of the profits of this blog with you. Also, information was ripped from Wikipedia and so may not be factually correct but it sure fits the narrative I’m working to, and that’s the main thing.