KSDH, KSDH, KSDH …
February 13, 2020
Aarhus Gymnastics Club of 1880, GF or “The whites of Fredensvang”: Dear child has many names. This is also the case with AGF from Aarhus: The city’s football pride with 5 Danish championships and 9 cup titles, which is a Danish record. AGF is also the club in Denmark that has played the most seasons in the best league (1’st Division and Super League) under The Danish Football Association (DBU). The last Danish championship was won in 1986, while the last trophy in the cup was obtained in 1996. And we have almost a quarter of a century left to find the last Championship medal – bronze medal in 1997.
However, AGF’s performance and, not least, very good support from spectators and commercial partners in the fall of 2019 give the club’s many fans – inside and outside Aarhus – dreams and realistic belief that there are new and better times ahead for the club with its proud traditions. There are three main reasons why I believe that AGF – for just the third time since the turn of the millennium – has really good opportunities to qualify for the playoff among the top 6 clubs. And with a really good chances of winning the bronze medals. The gold medals and the silver medals are distributed between FC Copenhagen (FCK) and FC Midtjylland (FCM) – as they usually are.
First, the team of AGF has shown great stability in the first 20 games of the season 2019-2020. There is only one team in the Super League – FCM – that has conceded fewer goals and only three teams – FCK, Brøndby and Randers FC – who have scored more goals than AGF. There has been a good balance in the team during the matches, based on a strong defense, a hard working midfield and an effective attack. The majority of points are not based on technical and well-polished play, but on strong fight and a well thought-out game concept. I have been particularly impressed by captain Nicklas Backman, who has been indispensable in the central defense, and further on, Mustapha Bundu has in many matches been decisive with his impressive breakthrough power and great goals. AGF’s good performance is due to both good work on and off the field. The sporting leadership with the sports director Peter “PC” Christiansen at the forefront has bought in well, so AGF today probably has one of the broadest teams in the Super League.
Second, the hiring of head coach David Nielsen in the fall of 2017 has proven to be the right choice for AGF. The 43-year-old Nielsen, born and raised in Skagen, is a type of winner who has a very realistic and pragmatic approach to the game, the team and the individual: Everyone must contribute and make a whole-hearted effort for the team and the club. It is very positive, both for AGF and David Nielsen, that the parts have now extended the cooperation by 3 years – until the summer of 2023. The contract extension allows the club to further develop both the playing style, training culture and talent development at Fredensvang, where a new clubhouse creates an optimal framework for coaches, players and staff around the team. AGF’s sporting performance, especially in the fall, is also the reason why David Nielsen – along with Åge Hareide, Ståle Solbakken and Christian Nielsen – well deservedly nominated by DBU as Coach of the Year 2019, which will be announced within a few days.
Third, much indicates that AGF is on the right track in terms of getting a good sporting benefit from the club’s financial resources. Like David Nielsen, the hiring of rival Randers FC’s former CEO Jacob Nielsen back in the summer of 2014 was also the right choice for AGF. Nielsen has with determined focus, great energy and support from the club’s board managed to create continuity, which is essential for sporting and financial success – not only in football, but in all elite sports. There is – in both Danish and international football – an unambiguous long-term connection between the input of salary and sporting achievements. The Danish Sports Institute’s studies over the past two decades show that the staffing costs of super league clubs can explain more than 80 percent of the variations in sporting results. In practice, this means that the clubs that can maintain the highest salary budget over time, everything else just wins the most. FCK has clearly been a leader with current staff costs for players, coaches, experts and administration of DKK 146 million. Brøndby has expenses of DKK 110 million. while FCM has expenses of DKK 94 million. Then follows AGF, whose current staff costs amount to DKK 66 million. DKK – thus a total 4’th place. And perhaps for most people, a significantly larger budget than OB with DKK 42 million DKK and Randers FC with DKK 33 million. The Super League club’s financial income, which is a prerequisite for labor costs, is thus by far the biggest part of the explanation that FCK has won 6 Championships and 3 silver medals in the past decade and that FCM has won 2 championships and a total of 4 medals in the last 5 year. Money – whether it comes Champions League participation, TV rights, commercial partners, spectators or private patrons – thus plays a vital role in sporting results. So from an economic perspective alone, AGF should be a stable player in the top-6 playoffs – in my opinion at least 4 out of 5 times. This has certainly not been the case since the turn of the millennium, just as buying and selling players up through the 00’s and’ 10’s until the last few years has, overall, been a sporting and financial disaster. Today AGF has several players with great market value, especially the only 22-year-old Mustafa Bundu from Sierra Leone. I think it can be very valuable that AGF’s management chose not to sell the extremely talented player – or other potential marketable players – in the winter transfer window. Several of AGF’s closest competitors for the bronze medals – Brøndby, OB, AaB, FCN and Randers FC – have chosen to sell many of their biggest profiles, which in my opinion can be very expensive sporting.
On Sunday afternoon, more than 10,000 spectators will walk to Stadion Allé against Ceres Park when the AGF meets the arch rivals from Randers FC. The match is very important, but not crucial to AGF’s chances for playoffs and medals in 2020. The remaining 5 matches against Hobro, AC Horsens, Silkeborg IF, OB and AaB are equally important and so we will – both now and in the coming seasons – shout: “Come on You Whites … ” – “Come On You Whites .. ” – “Come On You Whites … ”