Austrian Football Bundesliga

Published: 08/10/2013

The Österreichische Fußball-Bundesliga, better known as the Bundesliga, represents the highest echelon of national league club competition in Austrian football. The league consists of ten elite teams, who compete in a season that runs from July through May with a winter break taken from late December till early February. The competition determines not only the Austrian national football champions, but also the country`s participants in the various European cups organised by UEFA. Austria is currently rated by UEFA as 15th among all European leagues based upon past performance.

A Start-and-Stop History

The first football played in Austria was introduced by English gardeners who worked for the Rothschild banking family in Vienna in 1890. The sport attracted the attention of local Viennese, and by 1894 the capital’s first two clubs were formed—First Vienna FC and the Cricketers. From 1900 onwards, a cup competition was organised in Vienna and played in a league format. It was known as the Neues Wiener Tagblatt Pokal.

The founding of the Österreichischer Fussball-Bund (ÖFB) or Austrian Football Association in 1904 preceded the country’s membership a year later in FIFA, football’s world governing body. Finally, in 1911, the first Austrian football championship was introduced, contested by 11 teams with SK Rapid Wien (est. 1899) winning the title. When the country moved to an eight-hour working day in 1919, people had more leisure time and the game gained in popularity, spurring the launch that year of the first ÖFB-Cup (Austrian Cup) competition, which was won by SK Rapid Wien over Wiener Sport-Club (est. 1883) by a score of 3–0.

In 1924, the two top national divisions turned professional. This led directly to a higher level of play, which resulted in the legendary “Wunderteam” that went undefeated in 16 international matches between 1930 and 1933. An attempt was made to start a single elite tier for Austria football called the Nationalliga in 1937-38, but annexation of the country by Germany from 1938 to 1944 brought the fledgling league to an early end. Austrian professionals were forced to participate in the National Socialist League of the Third Reich.

Only gradually after World War Two did league play resume in Austria on a national scale. By 1950, a new top tier was firmly in place, referred to as Staatsliga A. Then, a second gold age of Austrian football took place in 1950-54, whereupon the nation became a founding member of the UEFA. Another hiccup occurred in 1965, when the Austrian Football Association took over the organisation of the top division, once again creating a Nationalliga. But by 1974 yet another reformation led to the establishment of the 10-team Bundesliga, from which all football records are now traced. The new league’s first champion was Wacker Innsbruck.

Modern Football in Austria

Since 1991, the Bundesliga has operated as an independent non-profit association, organising the championships of the two highest divisions in Austria. Two clubs have been especially dominant in the modern era—Rapid Wien with 32 national titles and Austria Wien with 24. The two clubs have also won 14 and 27 ÖFB Cups, respectively.

Among other top teams, SV Austria Salzburg (est. 1933) is perhaps the most highly regarded. The club was purchased by Red Bull in 2005 and have gone on to capture four national titles since then, most recently in 2011-12, the same season in which they nabbed their first ÖFB Cup. Another strong competitor is SK Sturm Graz (est. 1909), who won their fourth cup in 2010 and their third league championship in 2010-11.

As the Bundesliga enters its 102nd season in 2013-14, the reigning champions are Austria Wien (Vienna). The club relegated prior to the start of the new season were SV Mattersburg, and they were replaced by Sportverein Grödig, winners of the 2012-13 Austrian Football First League. The returning eight clubs that aim at winning the Bundesliga title are Admira, Rapid Wien, Red Bull Salzburg, SV Ried, Sturm Graz, Wacker Innsbruck, SC Wiener Neustadt and Wolfsberger AC.

Published on: 08/10/2013

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