European Football

Something’s odd in Hungary

GyőriNext season, the Hungarian top flight, Nemzeti Bajnokság I, will comprise just 12 teams instead of the usual 16. The relegated pair, Dunaújváros and Pápa, will be replaced by Vasas and Békéscsaba, but four other teams – Győr, Kecskemét, Pécs and Nyíregyházan – were all ejected due to licensing issues. In the case of Győr, they also have financial problems.

Quite what is meant by “licensing issues” remains something of a mystery, but for Győr much of their problem stems from the financial collapse of their sponsor, Quaestor Financial Hrurira. This was followed by the withdrawal of Audi as a sponsor. As a consequence, the club accumulated debts totalling HUF 200m.

At the centre of the saga is the club’s home ground, the multi-purpose ETO Park. This is a stadium that was supposed to represent a better future for Hungarian football. It was built with a HUF 17bn loan from the Hungarian Development Bank. With Quaestor going bust, the ground is now in the hands of the bank.

Football stadiums are something of a hot topic these days. Prime Minister Viktor Orban is a big football fan and hankers for the days of the Mighty Magyars. He was keen to boost football in Hungary and championed the construction of a number of football stadiums that would help kick-start the domestic game. “Stadionprojektek 2010-1018” involved the building of 33 stadiums by 2018.

But he came under heavy criticism for neglecting other matters that were vital to the well-being of the Hungarian people, namely education, healthcare and social services. Football appeared to be getting enormous generosity when other sports, which the Hungarians were faring far better at, were receiving scant support from the government.

It’s not just football that is under the microscope in Hungarian sport. There have also been investigations into the financial dealings of the Hungarian Paralympic Committee.

Orban, incidentally, has said that he doesn’t believe football can be run on a market basis, which hints at some form of nationalisation dream – another throwback to the pre-glasnost years?

Where this all leaves Győr, a poor example of free-market football, is anyone’s guess.

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