Sweden is far from being one of the cheaper countries in the world, so why are players at a Damallsvenskan club only taking home $50 a month?
Disparity on the pitch
As with most leagues, anywhere in the world, when a team hot-tipped to finish top of the table spars with one relegation-threatened, there is usually only one outcome. So, when Sara Nilsson slammed the ball into the roof of Zećira Mušović’s net on Saturday, cancelling out Nathalie Björn’s early goal, it was hard to restrain an “Oh my.”
The disparity between the two teams is stark; the hosts, FC Rosengård, have ten Damallsvenskan titles amassed over their long (franchised) history, while their opposition, Kungsbacka DFF were six years old. Promoted as Elitettan champions, this season has been a gruelling one for Kungsbacka with just one point from their first nine matches in the topflight.
By the time Sandra Almkvist blew for fulltime in Malmö, Rosengård had regained their lead and then some, hitting the league newcomers for a further five to leapfrog Kopparbergs/Göteborg into first in the league standings. Kungsbacka didn’t move from the floor of the table, their goal difference taking another hit. But, to take a step back, the match wasn’t just about the difference in quality of the two. Rosengård has (arguably) the best squad in the league, full of internationals pulled from around the world. The team with the biggest budget, the most glittering history and some of the biggest stars to have ever played for them – Marta, Lotta Schelin, Lieke Martens – against the poorest in the league.
As reported by Aftonbladet, Kungsbacka’s financial difficulties run deep and go back to the inception of the club, when it gobbled up several in the area, including Tölö IF’s Division 1 (tier three) berth. Promised finical support by the Kungsbacka Municipality have been far from forthcoming, leave the club in distress, the team has however, persevered.
Having earned their promotion to the top tier, the team have consistently been under the cosh this season and have been forced to move from their Tingbergsvallen home (as it doesn’t have floodlights and wifi, requirements of a Damallsvenskan stadium). Exiled from the home they dominated Elitettan in, Kungsbacka have been displaced 45-minutes down the motorway to Påskbergsvallen in Varberg. But the problems run far deeper than an inability to get any help from the local municipality for lighting with the team forced to slash their budget to within an inch.
As new chairman Johan Johqvist has told Swedish media, the club’s outgoings are simply more than their incomings and the cost-cutting has, inevitably, reached the player’s wages. With the team very much a part time one, most players can fall back on their full-time jobs for a stable income and have agreed to having their payslips heavily docked. The budgeting reaching club-wide, each players has at some point been summoned into the office to talk numbers, with most dropping down to 500 SEK ($50) a month.
For Emilia Hjertberg, who can rely on her day job in a warehouse to pay the bills, it’s a sacrifice she’s happy to make, aware that there is little that can be done but notes that some of her teammates – for one reason or another – can’t take the loss. But there seems to be little resentment.
However, there is one player at the club who can’t be renegotiated. As a player from a non-EU country, by Swedish law, Nigerian international Josephine Chukwunonye cannot earn less than 14,300 SEK ($1,500) per month. This is still higher than the league-wide average, with the Swedish footballer’s association reporting that the average wage across the 12 teams in 2018 was 11,319 SEK ($1,180) – women’s football in Sweden is still, largely, a part-time pursuit. For Chukwunonye, Kungsbacka have arranged an external sponsor to foot the bill.
Although things on the pitch have been looking grim for Kungsbacka this season, Johqvist is hopeful that the team can finish the season without taking any more [financial] losses, yet the heavy debt could yet have wider implications. Whilst it seems unlikely that the team will stave off relegation, if they were to turn their fortunes around, there is still the worry that the SvFF would need the team to have stabilised their finances with the club likely to need to find one million SEK ($105,000).
For the players there are still 13 matches of the season left to turn their results around and with previous coach Henrik Korhonen replaced by Stefan Olofsson and Martin Blixt over the summer, there is a wave of positivity sweeping the team. For Hjertberg there remains the belief that the team can fight the odds and claim safety but what happens after that, the centre back doesn’t know.
*All US dollar figures have been rounded up or down within reason