Few teams have caught the European football imagination in recent years like Ostersunds did. They were the tiny Swedish club who came up through the divisions (from the fourth tier) to win the Swedish Allsvenskan title, qualify for the Europa League, make the round of 32 and beat Arsenal at home. The term ‘fairytale’ is overused in sport, but there was certainly some sparkle to Ostersunds’ story.
Graham Potter was the, up until then, unknown Englishman who carried the Swedish club on their way to domestic and continental success. Of course, Potter isn’t so unknown now, with the 44-year-old performing an admirable job at Brighton following his appointment on the south coast in the summer.
The fairytale has recently been soured, though. Last month, Ostersunds were plunged into financial difficulty with a tax bill of 1.4m Swedish krona - around £112,500 - putting the club on the brink of oblivion. “For us football lovers there is no alternative,” a statement released by the club at the time read. “Ostersund without an elite football team is unthinkable.”
Now, the situation is a whole lot worse. A fortnight ago, Ostersunds’ former chairman Daniel Kindberg was handed a jail sentence after being convicted of siphoning off around £1.21 million to the club mainly from a municipal housing company. Kindberg intends to appeal, but was sentenced to three years behind bars.
This has only added to a situation that is beginning to look unsalvageable. Ostersunds’ footballing fairytale has turned into a story of gross mismanagement, corruption and fraud. The sparkle that once existed around the Swedish club has disappeared. Instead, there is now a toxicity attached to Ostersunds. It represents a remarkable fall.
Club accounts reveal that 7m krona - over half a millions pounds - has been lost in sponsorship revenue, while 20m krona (£1.6m) in player sales through the transfer market and 5m krona (£400,000) in match-day revenue, which was counted as part of their budget never actually materialised. What’s more, Ostersunds are also under a transfer embargo meted out to them by FIFA over the transfer of a player (Saman Ghoddos) to Amiens in Ligue 1.
Ostersunds only just avoided relegation from the Swedish Allsvenskan on the final weekend of the 2019 season at the beginning of the month, finishing only two points above the bottom three. They will at the very least have managed to hold on to their top-flight status, but this is a club that has bigger things to worry about right than now than their league position. That Europa League last 32 win over Arsenal feels a long time ago now.