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The success of Rosenborg
By Thomas Myren, 6 July 2010, 19:49

With club legend Nils Arne Eggen (68) back as coach, Rosenborg are once more set to begin the road to the Champions League.

CUP-FINAL 1988: Kåre Ingebrigtsen, Mini Jakobsen and Ørjan Berg celebrating.

The modern, golden times of Rosenborg started in 1988. With help from the club's head sponsor Fokus Bank, a more professional management was introduced, allowing the club to gain bigger commercial revenues. There were still just 3-4 employees, but the chief executive Arne Dokken and his colleagues did get useful help from experienced people of the bank.

The former Panathinaikos striker Dokken had signed for Rosenborg as a player in 1984, and secured the club's first league championship in 14 years as playing coach the following season.

He then was hired as the club's chief executive in 1988. His first move was to bring former coach Nils Arne Eggen back from Moss, which he had led from the 2nd level to league championship in just two years.

The rise of Rosenborg
Eggen become the great man of Rosenborg. The former player and team captain had succeed as coach already in his very first season in charge in 1971, securing Rosenborg's first "the double" - winning the league and the cup. He also had two more spells in 1976 and 1978-82.

Eggen was already very faithful to his 4-3-3 formation inspired by Dutch coaching legend Rinus Michels, who actually had invited Eggen to watch Ajax trainings in the 70s. The attacking style of play was an immediate success in the Norwegian league, and Rosenborg suddenly became a popular club all around Norway because of their "positive football".

The double championships in 1988 and 1990 laid the foundation for the fantastic 13 consecutive league titles in 1992-2004. Nils Arne Eggen had a "sabbatical year" in 1998, but was except for this in charge all these seasons until 2002, when he retired.

Continental trouble
Despite the domestic success Rosenborg were still struggling in the European cups - like all the other Norwegian clubs.

Football experts in media stated that e.g. 0-5 for KV Mechelen in 1989 and 0-5 for Sampdoria in 1991 proved that Rosenborg could not play such attacking football in international matches.

The big loss in Genova actually marked a change. Eggen let his assistant coach Bjørn Hansen, who had a more defensive way of thinking, organise a better defence. In away games in the European cups this often meant a kind of 4-5-1 formation.

Because of the bad Norwegian results in Europe, Rosenborg were actually not allowed to even take part in the qualification for the new Champions League in 1994. But the two UEFA Cup matches against Deportivo La Coruña featuring Bebeto etc. showed something was starting to happen: After a 1-0 win at home, Rosenborg played a great away match and were just minutes from knocking out the Spanish club.

The breakthrough then came in 1995 when Besiktas was knocked out in the qualifiers for the Champions League: Home match | Away match

Even though Rosenborg had the chance of going through to the quarter finals even until the last match against Blackburn, once more the results in the away matches were poor.

Miracle in Milano
This changed in 1996 when both IFK Göteborg and AC Milan were beaten away.

Knocking AC Milan out of the Champions League is still the biggest achievement in the club's history. 9 of 11 players in the starting line-up were from the Trondheim area. This is not likely to happen again in a globalised world of football, but hopefully the basis of even future line-ups will be local players with a big heart for Rosenborg.

The following quarter finals against Juventus players on steriods were a close race until a big mistake of goalkeeper Jørn Jamtfall in Torino: Home match | Away match

The rest is history: Ten years of European triumphs

Local players
Rosenborg are the dominant club in the Trondheim area, and have been since the 60s. Molde are the closest premiership club, located 300 km Southwest. So Rosenborg can choose local talents without competition.

Rosenborg have never had a real academy. Actually the youth department was closed in 1992 because of the bad quality of the youth players, leaving behind just a U19 team.

Instead the club (mainly Nils Arne Eggen) thought players best could devolop in their home based clubs. The talents instead were brought to Rosenborg at age 17.

Because of the new UEFA rules on locally trained players, Rosenborg had to re-establish a U16 team a few years ago. So now most players are brought to the club at age 15. Still, these players are local boys.

Rosenborg had some very few foreign players after German Michael Hansen signed in 1982, but they were all just reserves. The very first foreigner to become a regular was Arni Gautur Arason of Iceland, who signed in 1998 and become the first choice goalkeeper in 2000.

The last ten years more and more foregin players have been bought due to high transfer fees between Norwegian clubs; Rosenborg think they get more quality for less money abroad. But again the rules are changing: Norwegian clubs are now just allowed to have 11 foreign players, and this number will decrease the next years.

Effect on the national team
All the Norwegian quality players at Rosenborg probably would make you think the national team was depending of players from the club. Norway and Rosenborg however were more or less two separate success stories in the 90s. In his first years as Norway coach Egil Olsen did use some Rosenborg players like Kalle Løken, Stig Inge Bjørnebye, Øyvind Leonhardsen, Gøran Sørloth and Mini Jakobsen on quite a regular basis.

After the two great matches against England in 1992/93, Bjørnebye and Leonhardsen were sold to English clubs as almost all their Norway team-mates. Since then Olsen never had any key players representing Rosenborg.

This changed when Olsen was replaced by Nils Johan Semb after World Cup 98. In the Euro 2000 qualifiers several Rosenborg players established themselves on the national team. These included Erik Hoftun, maybe the best Rosenborg player ever, who sadly missed the actual championship in the Netherlands/Belgium due to an injury before quickly there after retiring from international duties.

Economical powerhouse
The annual turnover increased very slowly, and was in 1994 modest 23 million NOK. Most of the players were still just semi-professional, earning around 150,000 a year. They had other jobs besides playing football.

The Norwegian league had been a stricly amateur league until 1985, when semi-professionals were introduced. First in 1990 full-time players were allowed, but most players just "worked" part-time for their clubs for several years more.

After a few years in the Champions League, the Rosenborg players' wages stabilised on a much higher level:

(It is still around this level; 60-70 million.)

Perhaps the greatest increase has been in sponsor contracts. 4 million in 1994 has become 56 million this year:

Compared to other Norwegian clubs with far fewer supporters and matches on national TV, the club still find the commerical income to be too low.

The net income for first 10 seasons in the Champions League was around 600 million. This incluces prize and TV money from UEFA and ticket sales from the home matches.

The ticket sales have been around 20-30 million, while the UEFA payouts have been the following:

1997: 46.2 million
1998: 28.9
1999: 44.5
2000: 40.4
2001: 55.4
2002: 57.2
2003: 22.7
2004: 43.3
2005: 52.7
2007: 86.8

(95 and 96 figures not available.)

The total income of the club has been very dependent of money from the Champions League, but the club has never included these prize money in their budgets

Two seasons without Champions League means Rosenborg in the moment are spending their savings on covering deficits. The result of 2009 was -40 million. Getting back to the group stage this year is necessary to keep future budgets on the same level.

New stadium
The average attendance was very stable around 11-12,000 from 1988 to 2001.

However the share of season tickets increased because this included an option of advance purchase of tickets to the Champions League matches.

The attendance however increased rapidly when the Lerkendal stadium was rebuilt in 2002, and in 2007 almost 20,000 seats of the 21,000 capacity was sold each league match.

Noone exactly knows the actual record attendance of the old stadium, since there were just 6000 seats until 1996. The official record is 28,569, but in 1985 the gates had to be opened due to safety both against Bryne and Lillestrøm. So the unofficial record is around 32,000.

The hometown
Rosenborg have made the city of Trondheim well-known - and proud.

The direct economical effects are connected to the home matches in the Champions League. By the end of the 90s it had become a habit that companies in Trondheim invited partners and customers from elsewhere in Norway on more or less formal business meetings on match days.

This meant good money for hotels, restaurants and bars (and prostitutes) while the black market for match tickets increased to new heights. Companies paying over-price for the tickets forced loyal, normal supporters to watch the matches on TV.

The problem luckily decreased when the stadium was extended and black market sale of tickets were forbidden by Norwegian law.

The fall of Rosenborg
The decline started in 2000. The direct problem was replacing John Carew (Valencia), André Bergdølmo (Ajax) and Bjørn Otto Bragstad (Derby) after Euro 2000. Already this autumn the quality of the team was radically weakened.

Rosenborg had for several years been forced to replace 4-5 regular players each season after big sales to English and Scottish clubs, but now these processes had started to become more and more difficult.

The rebuilding of the stadium was expensive, and the other Norwegian clubs demanded bigger and bigger transfer fees for their players. The competitors still had small incomes compared to Rosenborg, but new investors had begun pumping money into these clubs. In addition Rosenborg had been too kind in many transfers, paying too much.

In short, Rosenborg ended up with signing expensive, older players, gradually decreasing the quality of the team.

Regaining the throne
It was hard to stop a "super-tanker" drifting forwards even though the engine was stopping. Rosenborg continued with "same procedure as last year"; Champions League group stages and league titles. Nils Arne Eggen retired after a dramatic 2002 season where Lyn was 10 points ahead in August before losing it all to Rosenborg.

New coach Åge Hareide announced he would sign younger players, but didn't carry out much on this front before becoming Norway boss already after one season.

Per-Mathias Høgmo tried to restart this process in 2005/06. He improved and professionalised the sports management, including hiring the club's first talent scout(!), extending the coaching staff and establishing a medical test lab. Sadly he decided to step down after first being on sick leave due to mental exhaustion.

Meanwhile his assistant Knut Tørum secured the league championship in 2006. Tørum was one of four former assistant coaches taking charge in just four seasons(!): Ola By Rise, Per Joar Hansen, Tørum and Trond Henriksen.

Tørum was sacked after the 5th place in 2007 after experiencing the same as his inexperienced predecessors: It takes a strong neck to coach a big club with such stronge traditions. The "formal" qualities of these coaches also were doubtful.

Signing Erik Hamrén in 2008 was a brand new start. The Swede had good experience from other big clubs after Scandinavian standards, e.g. AIK. Experience is essential for being respected and "untouchable" in a club like Rosenborg.

Hamrén completed the 2007/08 season in Denmark, guiding Aalborg to the league title, before moving to Trondheim. Since temporary coach Henriksen had a nightmare start of the Norwegian season, Rosenborg already in May were 10 points behind Stabæk.

The biggest challenge of Hamrén's debut season was the low average age of the players; just around 23 years in some matches. The performances and results were far to unstable due to the lack of experience. The team touched the bottom when losing against 3rd level club Kristiansund in the domestic cup, while the two excellent wins against Valencia in the Champions League some months before (videos: home match | away match) proved the potential of the young team.

Nevertheless Hamrén was close to securing a medal already in his amputated debut season; a single point in the three last matches ruined it.

Champions again!
In 2009 Hamrén focused on gaining stability by establishing a good defence including the central midfielders. Buying Anthony Annan was perhaps the club's best signing ever, and the Ghana midfielder proved his skills in the World Cup this June. It was also important that veterans such as Steffen Iversen (33) and super-sub Roar Strand (40) regain fitness at much higher level than in the previous seasons.

Even though Rosenborg was superior in the league last year - losing just one of 30 matches, there was criticism on the lack of well-functioning attacking play: People was still is used to Nils Arne Eggen's style of play.

Hamrén agreed on this matter, and stated the attack would become a priority matter in 2010.

Return of Eggen
But just three days after the league ended, Hamrén signed for Sweden. He worked part-time for the Swedes this spring, before leaving Trondheim in May.

Despite still some offensive trouble resulting in several draws, Hamrén left the club unbeaten and just behind big surprise Tromsø in the table. He was replaced by - Nils Arne Eggen!

The club legend agreed on a comeback, helping the club for six months: Jan Jönsson of Stabæk is unofficially ready to begin 1 January, and will sign his contract sometime in July.

Meanwhile whole of Norway seems content to see Eggen back. His classical 4-3-3 has somehow turned into 4-4-2 with a "midfield diamond", giving the defence a bit more help. His first matches have been promising, with league wins against Kongsvinger and Sandefjord and a cup win against Alta. The World Cup break has been used at the training ground to improve the "playing relations" between the midfielders and forwards.

Rosenborg will gain from the new split qualifying system for the Champions League. The club is seeded in the two first rounds and has a chance of seeding the 4th round too, meaning the chance of qualifying has increased dramatically since 2007, when RBK kind of was saved by a lucky draw.

And with Eggen back at Rosenborg and Olsen back at the national team, Norwegians are looking forward to taking on Europe this autumn like in the 90s!

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