SV Austria Salzburg was founded in 1933 as a result of a merger between two local clubs, Hertha and Rapid. 20 years later, in 1953, Austria Salzburg reached the first tier of Austrian football for the first time.
In the 1970s, the club first appeared internationally when they qualified for the UEFA Cup in 1971. By this point, Austria had cemented its position as “the” club in Salzburg.
In the 1990s, Salzburg was able to celebrate its biggest successes. Austria won the Austrian Bundesliga twice and reached the UEFA Cup final in 1994, which it lost 0-2 on aggregate against Inter Milan. Austria Salzburg was also the first Austrian club to play in the newly formed Champions League in the 1994-95 season.
The Red Bull Takeover
In 2005, energy drink conglomerate Red Bull purchased SV Salzburg and decided to completely destroy the original club.
Instead of keeping the club’s traditional violet/white colours, Red Bull changed them to red/white. Additionally, Red Bull replaced the club’s name, management, and staff. The company also stated that Red Bull Salzburg was “a new club with no history.”
When the club met with the fans – who were protesting these changes vehemently – to discuss possible concession, Red Bull suggested to the fans that they could consider allowing their goalkeeper to wear violet gloves and socks.
SV Austria Salzburg Reborn
The protests held by Salzburg ultras and other loyal supporters were in vain. Redbull continued on its ruthless path of destruction. As a result, instead of fighting a battle that cannot be won, Austria fans left the stadium to found – or rather re-found – their own club, which was given the name SV Austria Salzburg.
In 2005, Salzburg’s most prominent supporters’ groups and loyal violet fans came together to establish SV Austria Salzburg.
Subsequently, the new club started in the 7th tier of Austrian football in the 2006-07 season.
SVAS immediately managed to secure a promotion in its first season. This was followed by three further back-to-back promotions that saw the club play third division football within five years.
While the competitiveness of the third division meant no further promotions for several years, the Regionalliga West saw the club match up against the B teams of its two biggest rivals; Wacker Innsbruck and Red Bull Salzburg. Naturally, this was embraced by the die-hard violet-and-whites who stuck to their club throughout the lower leagues.
In 2015, Austria Salzburg managed to win the Regionalliga West to move into Austria’s second division in what can be considered as the biggest comeback story of an Austrian club ever.
During its season in the “Erste Liga”, Austria played against clubs such as LASK and derby rivals Wacker Innsbruck. Austria fans rejoiced as they were back in Bundesliga stadiums!
However, the club faced financial difficulties brought about by license requirements for second-tier Austrian football. Moreover, the club ended up breaching license requirements, which resulted in a fine and a six-point deduction.
At the end of the 2015-16 season in the second division, Austria Salzburg was forced to relegate for financial reasons and found itself in the fourth division two years later.
“Austria Salzburg failed at the transition from an amateur to a professional football club. I think there would have even been enough sponsors but the structural ecosystem surrounding the club did not grow with it,” explained Michael Smejkal, journalist, and author of the book ’80 Jahre Austria Salzburg’, in an interview with DAZN.
Salzburg Ultras Bring Bundesliga Atmosphere to the Lower Leagues
Currently, Austria Salzburg plays in the third tier of Austrian football where most games occur on terrace-less grounds. However, that does not mean that Salzburg supporters aren’t showing up in numbers to support the club they love.
In the Max Aicher Stadion, you can expect to see (and hear!) several hundred people in the home-end supporting Austria. You will witness the same passion and level of intensity that you would expect to see at the best-supported Bundesliga clubs in the country.
Since joining the third tier of Austrian football in 2010, Austria has had an average attendance of ~1,200 per game. While that may not seem high for European standards, average attendance in Austria’s second division in the 2018-19 season, for example, was only 928 fans per game.
Moreover, large-scale tifos are not uncommon in Austria’s Sektor D. Groups such as Union Ultrà and Tough Guys have put on incredible displays during the newly founded club’s 14-year history. Perhaps, most notably, was the Union Ultrà’s 20-year celebration choreography in 2019, which involved the entire stadium.
A Grassroots Football Success Story
Austria fans have demonstrated that it is possible to turn your back on destructive club ownership and to start again at the bottom.
In fact, in the last 20 years, the number of supporter-owned clubs has been on the rise. More and more fans are turning their backs on modern football. FC United of Manchester and AFC Wimbledon are excellent examples of this.
While Austria’s road back to the Bundesliga will likely be long and rocky, the club is already a success story. A large corporation came to destroy it but the club remains alive and kicking. Largely, thanks to its fans.