Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Interview with Veikkausliiga's Risto Oksanen

With the 2015 Veikkausliiga (Finnish Premier Division) officially launching today, ahead of the first round of fixtures on April 12th, I had a chat with the league's marketing executive Risto Oksanen about the league and it's aims and goals.

How important was it for the Veikkausliiga to secure a broadcasting deal with ISTV and YLE?
Broadcasting on YLE has been our long term strategy. We understand the power of free-to-air TV in increasing the popularity of the Finnish football. YLE Futiskierros is totally new way to watch football, with the possibility of seeing all of the important events from each match, which then widens the target group to the whole of Finland. The broadcast is more entertaining even for people who are less interested in football. On the other end, ISTV (Ilta-Sanomat TV, who will stream each game online to subscribers) offers the chance for supporters and hardcore fans to follow every match of their own club.
What challenges do the Veikkausliiga face to attract new fans, faced with the wider appeal of domestic football from England, Spain or Germany?
One challenge is that Finlandhasn’t been able to raise international interest towards Veikkausliiga. We have only a few internationally known active players. After Sami Hyypiä and Jari Litmanen, we haven’t had many players with star status. The clear strength for Veikkausliiga is that it is played in summer, when most of European leagues are on break. For people who want to watch football, Veikkausliiga can be great alternative. Betting is also raising the interest towards Nordic football in summer.

What are the Veikkausliiga’s goals in foreign markets?
So far our goals have been in domestic markets. The international markets have been considered more of a bonus, so we don’t have fixed goals for this.
There have been various suggestions for changes to the league structure – does the relegation play-off aim to make things more interesting?
There are cons and pros with relegation play-offs. Definitely the matches will be interesting with a lot at stake and its important to have our doors open for strong first division clubs.  On the other hand, the matches will be played in autumn when the conditions might be terrible for football in many cities. Any short term injuries might have a fatal impact for a club's prospects.

What they're all playing for

How does the fixture planning take fan groups into account, relating to travel and pricing?
We are trying to consider all aspects of fixture schedules and listen to the clubs when planning our match programme. Even though we are trying to optimise the matches into right places, the result is always a compromise between groups.

Do many foreign firms enquire about marketing with Veikkausliiga? How would such firms benefit?

There would definitely be room for more sponsors. The targets differ from sponsor to sponsor, but they all are related with their target group and how to have positive impact to those people. In customer products and services, the best results can be achieved if the brand can share the feeling and emotions with the fans. It’s should not be short-term, one way advertising. It should be long-term participating at all levels. At the end of the day, the results will be evaluated in business terms. Increased exposure is important for Veikkausliiga’s sponsors and also for the main sponsors at club level. It supports our common targets.

HJK’s Europa League campaign last year and move into Japanese markets has increased their profile internationally – do Veikkausliiga work with other clubs to provide advice and infrastructure?
Veikkausliiga is an organisation for the domestic market, therefore our main focus is here in Finland. Of course we do our best to help our clubs with any international issues. Teams are also sharing their foreign experiences with each other, which is encouraging. 


After Honka and MYPA’s financial problems, are there any safeguards to help other clubs with similar issues?
Veikkausliiga is an association, formed by top league teams. Decisions are made with one vote for each club. The board decides everything in Veikkausliiga. We try to prevent the problems with our licensing system, ensuring that a club entering Veikkausliiga must be able to meet the various demands of a Veikkausliiga season.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tulos: Adieu, Adu and other things you may have missed

The latest update on what's been going on in Finnish football - it's been a busy fortnight or so.

Finland's crucial Euro 2016 qualifier against Northern Ireland took place on Sunday in Belfast - unfortunately it ended in a 2-1 defeat, pretty much ending any hopes of qualification for next summer's tournament in France. Two goals from Kyle Lafferty were the difference, while an injury-time consolation from sub Berat Sadik made no difference. It was an inept performance filled with errors and minimal threat posed. The 'Mixu Out' brigade are in full swing, even the FA's line that he will remain in place until the end of qualifying appears to be very much 'by-the-numbers'. The Hungary match in June could be interesting...

The big transfer news was a rather large surprise - former United States international Freddy Adu signed for KuPS! Yep, that's the same Freddy Adu who was billed as the "next Pele" scoring an MLS goal for DC United aged 14. Since then, it's all been a little sad, KuPS are now his eleventh club following spells in Brazil, Greece, Turkey and Serbia. Needless to say, my friends in Kuopio are expecting plenty of interest and shopping, with a press conference this Thursday set to be quite the party. I've been told that Freddy chose Finland in order to escape the circus and concentrate on football...

Image via

Atletico Malmi's Suomen Cup fairytale ended at the hands of FC Lahti in round five. The team who finished third in last season's top division won 2-0 with goals in the first half, and while they dominated the stats, they were resisted further goals. Malmi can now concentrate on their Kolmonen season, will another promotion be on the cards?

Malmi and Lahti players join together

Finland U21s played twice last weekend, winning matches against Kazahkstan (3-0) and Luxembourg (4-1). FC Inter striker Vahid Hambo scored in both games.

I did an interview with Tero Koskela of the Finnish Player's Union (JPY), where we talked about various issues facing footballers along with the role of the organisation. My next interview is with Veikkausliiga marketing executive Risto Oksanen, which will be online in the next week or so.

Finland midfielder Tim Sparv featured in an article by Dutch journalists about the innovative management behind his club FC Midtjylland. The club are owned by Matthew Benham, who also owns English club Brentford. The system of player recruitment is based on statistics, but Sparv was highlighted as the "no-stats all star" due to his reading of the game.

As expected, Finland captain Niklas Moisander signed a pre-contract with Serie A club Sampdoria. While it had been rumoured for some time, it was still big news, although the announcement got more interest due to the eccentric club president Massimo Ferrero in full swing...

Other things probably happened but I can't remember... I did book flights to Finland in June, at the moment looking at matches with Atletico Malmi, SJK, KuPS, Union Plaani and possibly HIFK.