Cash-strapped Vllaznia looking for investors to return competitive to Albanian Superliga

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 11, 2017 14:30

Cash-strapped Vllaznia looking for investors to return competitive to Albanian Superliga

Story Highlights

  • The privatization process comes at a time when the club’s financial situation has been sharply deteriorating and Vllaznia, one of the elite clubs of Albania’s top flight football have not been competitive in the past few years and during the last season hardly managed to escape what would have been their first ever relegation in their 87-year history

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TIRANA, Dec. 11 – One of Albania’s most successful football clubs is heading for privatization after a failed six-year spell as a wholly local government-owned club.

Northern Albania Shkodra-based Vllaznia club managed by the local Shkodra municipality has announced it is looking for a consultant that will evaluate the club’s assets and prepare the documentation for an action to sell the club’s shares, likely to take place in early 2018.

The privatization process comes at a time when the club’s financial situation has been sharply deteriorating and Vllaznia, one of the elite clubs of Albania’s top flight football have not been competitive in the past few years and during the last season hardly managed to escape what would have been their first ever relegation in their 87-year history.

The situation remains critical even this year when Vllaznia find themselves in the relegation zone and trail leaders Skenderbeu by 19 points in the first 14 games of the Albanian Superliga.

Vllaznia are also almost out of the Albanian Cup competition after losing their first-leg game 2-0 against Tirana, Albania’s historically most successful club which is playing in the First Division for the first time this season. Tirana were demoted last season in a final championship decider against Vllaznia which escaped relegation following a goalless draw.

Vllaznia’s privatization also comes amid anger and protests by local fans against the club’s critical situation and reports that players are unmotivated due to the municipality failing to pay them in time as a result of problems with accumulated debts.

“We wouldn’t like the municipality of Shkodra to be sole owner in the football club, but have as many shareholders as possible,” Shkodra Mayor Voltana Ademi has earlier said.

“We will continue to support Vllaznia until the privatization is carried out. That is an institutional, political but also personal will of mine of supporting the club until it falls into private hands,” she has said.

According to a document published on the Shkodra municipality’s website, the club’s losses were at an average of 51 million lek (€380,000) annually from 2011 to 2015 when the municipality was the sole owner of Vllaznia following the withdrawal of its private sponsors and shareholders.

The assets of the club which has won nine championship titles and six Albanian Cups were estimated at 258 million lek (about €2 million) in 2015, but that does not include its renovated stadium.

Shkodra’s 16,000-seat ‘Loro Borici’ stadium was renovated in 2016 and also  hosts the national side’s home matches and those of neighboring Kosovo which has yet to build a stadium meeting international standards after it was admitted as a FIFA and UEFA member in 2016 and played its first World Cup qualifying campaign.

The municipality of Shkodra, the largest local government unit in northern Albania, says annual losses Vllaznia incurs have seriously hampered local public finances and expects the club’s privatization to strip Shkodra taxpayers of financing a company with huge losses and make a concrete investment with its sale revenues.

Albania’s top flight clubs are partly local investor and mostly municipal-owned.

The country’s Superliga clubs have made huge progress in the past few years with Skenderbeu making it to the Europa League group stage twice in the past three years, but failing to progress to the knockout stage.

However, only few Albanian Superliga players are called up for the national side which failed to make it to the 2018 World Cup after a debut appearance in France’s Euro 2016.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 11, 2017 14:30