Most Dramatic Club Collapses in Football History


Posted: July 7, 2020

Updated: July 7, 2020

  • Former FA Cup winner Portsmouth play in League 2 now
  • Fiorentina and Parma came back to the top division in a few years
  • Just like Glasgow Rangers, which were liquidated in 2011

In the last few months we could hear news about more and more clubs struggling with financial issues after no football for months. And even in most countries the leagues could resume since it might have been too late for smaller clubs. In the most dramatic club collapses in football history we find earlier examples, but sadly the list might grow in the near future. 

Football clubs like every other sport organization need money to run, which is normally provided by rich individual owners. But if they have financial problems, they are only losing money or had enough from football, they might sell the club. But if there is no real interest from anyone else to buy it, it can also mean the end of a club. Even if we talk about clubs with real old history, huge fan bases and former great successes. As you can see from the following list, dramatic collapses can happen easily, especially in the UK and in Italy. 

5. Fiorentina’s bankruptcy in the most dramatic club collapses in football history

The Italian side of Fiorentina was a top team in the country, it won the Serie A twice beside six Italian cup titles. The team also played in European tournaments like the Champions League or the UEFA Cup. The latter they almost won in the 1989/90 season. La Viola played well in the 2000/01 season as well, winning again the Coppa Italia. But in the same year their financial problems were revealed. The club had debts around $50 million, and they were relegated to the second division at the end of the 2001/02 season. 

most dramatic club collapses in football history
Those are some huge collapses.

But it wasn’t all, the club went into bankruptcy and ceased to exist as online sportsbook news in Italy were also reporting. Luckily there is a more positive outcome of the story as the club was re-established in the same year thanks to new owner, shoe and leather entrepreneur Diego Della Valle. The team started to play in the fourth tier, and returned to the top division in the 2004/05 season. The team is currently in 13th place in Serie A, far from relegation but from a better finish as well.

4. Portsmouth, a former FA Cup winner now plays in League 2

The south coast club reached its biggest success in 2008 when the team won the FA Cup defeating Cardiff City in the final. The team had players like Sol Campbell, Jermain Defoe and Lassana Diarra in the squad and a top manager, Harry Redknapp. But even winning the trophy couldn’t stop the club from falling, after rolling up a £135 million debt. Between 2010 and 2013 the club went twice into administration and were relegated three times. The club was saved by the fans. Then sold to an investment company owned by former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Now Pompey play in League 1. They might get promotion to the Championship if they can defeat Oxford in the play-off. 

3. Leeds United, “doing a Leeds”

The collapse of Leeds United got even an own phrase. It can be used for every other club in similar situations, it’s called “doing a Leeds”. It is a situation when a rich and successful club wants even more and at the end it loses everything. Like it happened with Leeds United which was in the top teams in the 1990s.  They even reached the semi-finals in the Champions League during the 2000/01 season. But when they failed to qualify for the tournament in the next two seasons, the club had to deal with huge debts. Key players like Rio Ferdinand and Jonathan Woodgate were sold but it didn’t solve the problem. The team was relegated in the 2003/04 season then the club went into administration in 2007. Leeds were relegated to League One in one of the most dramatic club collapses in football history. 

most dramatic club collapses in football history
Don’t do a leeds!

2. Parma, where players had to wash their own kits

The team won eight trophies between 1992 and 2002 and had players like Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluigi Buffon and Lilian Thuram. But in the beginning of the 2000s the club had to operate in controlled administration after the parent company Parmalat collapsed. And it just got worse for 2015 when the club was dissolved. In that season players didn’t get any salary. Plus they had to drive their own bus and even wash their own kit. Parma could only play in the 4th league in the next season after their huge, €218 million debt. Amazingly the club managed to return to Seria A within only three years, in the 2018/19 season. They are in 12th place at the moment in the top league. Online gambling sites in Italy are favoring Juventus to win another championship title. 

1. Glasgow Rangers

One of the oldest football clubs in Scotland, Glasgow Rangers had to suffer a similar fate like Parma. They belonged to the top league in the country until 2011. Then the club suffered a financial crisis and went into liquidation. It was due to overspending and a desire to become a strong force in Europe. They had a debt of €30 million by 2009, which went down to €18 million by 2011. But there were further issues and payments due to the revenue service of the UK. Its chairman, David Murray sold 85% of his stakes but that didn’t work. The club was ranked into the 4th Division. Rangers returned back to the Scottish Premiership in the 2016/17 season after a four-year hiatus. This season they finished 2nd behind old rival Celtic. But they could beat them for the first time since 2010 last December. 

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