Danish Superliga

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Published: 08/10/2013

Since 1991, the Danish Superliga has been the highest league of football in Denmark. It is made up of a dozen elite professional clubs, who participate in a ten-month season running from July to May. At the end of each season, two clubs face relegation to the second-tier Danish 1st Division, which provides its top two teams for promotion. According to the UEFA, the Danes have improved over the past five years from 23rd among all European leagues to 12th place currently.

Over a Century of Organised Football

Although the Superliga itself is relatively new on the European football scene, Denmark is actually the home of the first national football association ever founded in continental Europe. In 1889, the Dansk Boldspil-Union (DBU) was created to oversea the country 20 football-playing clubs, all but one of which were more focused on other sports, especially cricket and tennis, as introduced to the nation by British expatriates who had arrived since 1847 to build railways.

For the 1889-90 season, the DBU sponsored a competition involving seven Copenhagen teams, leading to the launch of the Københavns Boldspil-Union (KBU) or “Copenhagen Football Association” in 1903 and FIFA affiliation in 1904. However, the inaugural Danish national championship wasn’t played until 1912-13, when five provincial unions conducted separate tournaments leading to a three-round knockout competition won by Kjøbenhavns Boldklub; they defeated Frederiksborg IF by a score of 6-2.

Through 1927, the championship was decided in a single final match between the winner of the KBU Copenhagen football championship and the winner of a series of playoff games arranged among regional champions from the rest of Denmark. The DBU briefly experimented with a nationwide Denmark Tournament for two seasons before coming up with a Championship League system in 1929-30 and added a second division in 1936. That endured until 1940, followed by the “War Tournaments” of 1941~45, when a third division was created.

After World War Two, new leagues were formed with the 1st Division as the top tier. UEFA membership was secured in 1954, and a year later the first Landspokalturneringen (Danish Cup) knockout competition was conducted, with Aarhus Gymnastikforening (AGF) beating Aalborg Chang, 4-0, at Copenhagen’s Idrætsparken before a crowd of 10,300. Ever since then, the final has taken place on Kristi Himmelfarts Dag (The Ascension), although the venue moved to the Danish national stadium Parken in 1992-93, the same season that the Danish Superliga was formed.

Competing under a New System

Semi-professionalism had not been embraced in Denmark until 1978. Even then, nine of the existing 48 league clubs opted to retain amateur status. An all-professional squad did not exist until 1985. So it was big news in 1992 when the DBU created the elite 10-team Superliga for professionals and turned the old 1st Division into the second tier of football. It was also the right move, as demonstrated by the national side winning the 1992 UEFA European Championship, one of the Denmark’s few major football triumphs internationally.

Expansion of the league to the current twelve clubs occurred in 1995-96, with all teams playing each other thrice. FC Copenhagen (est. 1992) have proven to be the club to beat, winning the league title 10 times and the Danish Cup on five occasions. Their strongest competition comes from Brøndby IF (est. 1964), who have also won ten national championships plus six Danish Cups. The Derby between the two sides is referred to as the “New Firm” and it attracts the largest crowds in Danish football.

Heading into the 2013-14 season, the defending champions were once again FC Copenhagen. Relegation dropped AC Horsens and Silkeborg IF from the top ranks, and they were replaced in the Superliga by 2012–13 1st Division champions Viborg FF and runners-up FC Vestsjælland. The other nine clubs that will be contending for the Superliga title are Aalborg BK, Aarhus Gymnastikforening (AGF), Brøndby IF, Esbjerg fB, FC Midtjylland, FC Nordsjælland, Odense Boldklub (OB), Randers FC and SønderjyskE.

Published on: 08/10/2013

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