Top 10 Best Defunct Association Football Clubs

Tags: #Soccer ,   #Football ,   #PremierLeague

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2021-09-29 08:53:08

Running a professional association football club is very expensive and often rather risky. In worst cases, bankruptcy happens, leading the team into oblivion. Countless organizations around the world have been forced to forever close their doors, so choosing the best among them isn't easy. However, not that we'll only consider clubs that aren't resurrected in the meantime. This means no Parma, Fiorentina, or Rangers, as they are all officially recognized as legal successors of the original clubs. Also, if the club is formally alive but not competing (like former FR Yugoslavia champion Obilić), it doesn't qualify for the list.

10. Renton F.C. (Scotland)

The whole Renton F.C. story

Founded in 1872, Renton F.C. needed only 16 years to win the unofficial Champions of the World title. As the FA Cup holders, they've beaten West Bromwich Albion, who won the same trophy in England. In these early years, Renton attained the FA Cup twice and was even a founding member of the Scottish Football League. However, they were promptly expelled as they allegedly fielded professional players (which was strictly forbidden). 

Even though the club made a comeback, their impact on Scottish football became minor. Hence, their last hurrah came in 1907 when they lost the quarterfinal of the FA Cup. After serious money issues, Ranton retired from the top competitions and played in local leagues before folding in 1922. A sad ending for one of the most prominent clubs of the early era.

9. FC Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

The most famous FC Amsterdam moment - win against Inter in Italy

While Ajax is by far the best football club in The Netherlands, it wasn't always like that. In 1972, FC Amsterdam was born as a result of a merger between DWS and Blauw-Wit Amsterdam. It looked like the team would soon become a force, as they finished fifth in their second season, qualifying for the UEFA Cup. FC Amsterdam reached the quarterfinals in their only major European campaign, eliminating Inter Milan in the second round.

Nevertheless, what followed was a slow but steady decline. In 1978, the club was relegated, barely surviving in the Eerste Divisie. With low attendance and no money left, the organization folded in 1982, only ten years after its foundation. In that sense, FC Amsterdam is the best example of a club that wanted instant success before imploding because of its unrealistic ambitions.

8. SV Mattersburg (Austria)

SV Mattersburg had some of the best fans in Austria

Despite being founded in 1922, SV Mattersburg never made a massive impact in the 20th century. However, that wasn't unusual for a club from the town with only 7,000 inhabitants. Yet, Mattersburg was promoted to the top Austrian league in 2003, and everything looked rosy. Their 17,000 capacity stadium was almost always full, and they finished the 2006-07 campaign in excellent third place. The team even played in European competitions for the next two seasons while also losing the Austrian Cup finals twice.

Unfortunately, they couldn't keep the rhythm but still survived in the Bundesliga, thanks to solid financial backing. However, the club was left out of money when their main sponsor was closed down after illegal business practices. As this happened just before the new season, Mattersburg couldn't do anything but file for bankruptcy.

7. CD Logroñés

CD Logroñés had some heroic games in La Liga

If you watched the Spanish league during the nineties, you probably heard about CD Logroñés. Founded in 1940, this team needed almost half a century to finally reach the highest tier, where it stayed for a decade. In 1990, CD Logroñés finished seventh, barely missing a place in the UEFA Cup. After being relegated in 1995, the club quickly bounced back and returned to La Liga for what was their final season of elite football. A lot of people probably still remember their catastrophic defeat against Barcelona.

The sharp decline followed with further relegations down to the fourth tier. With tons of financial problems, CD Logroñés played their last match in 2009, fielding only nine players. As they weren't allowed to compete even in regional leagues, the team shut down. Currently, two teams are claiming to be its successors - UD Logroñés and SD Logroñés. So far, both have failed to make an impact.

6. FC VSS Košice (Slovakia)

Košice failed to earn a single point in the Champions League

Slovakian football was never a runaway success, but Košice (renamed eight times!) stunned the world once they qualified for the UEFA Champions League in 1997. It was a massive success for the team that started from the first qualifying round, beating Spartak Moscow in the decider. That allowed them to face European giants, including Manchester United and Juventus. Košice won two Slovakian titles and cups and also produced a superstar, Nemanja Matić.

However, in the new millennium, the team never challenged for the title, struggling with finances. Despite ending the 2014-15 campaign sixth, they were relegated because of their dire financial situation. Despite winning the second division in 2017, the club filed for bankruptcy before the following season. While a new club FC Košice was established in 2018, it's not connected with FC VSS Košice.

5. Beerschot A.C. (Belgium)

The team won their first cup while still named Ekeren

Established as Germinal Ekeren in 1920, this side failed to make an impact before they finally reached the top division in 1989. In the following years, they were a force in Belgium football, winning their first Belgian Cup. After a merger with Beerschot, the club moved to Antwerp and became Beerschot A.C. in 1999.  Six years later, they won their last trophy, another Belgian Cup. 

Following several more years spent in the upper half of the league table, Beershot started struggling before being relegated in 2013. That made their financial situation unbearable, prompting the club's liquidation. The same year, fans founded K Beerschot VA that moved quickly from sixth division to the top league. However, this Beerschot is a successor of the original Beerschot before it was merged with Germinal Ekeren.

4. BSK (Serbia)

BSK players were a huge factor at the 1930 FIFA World Cup

Established in 1911, BSK (Beogradski Sport Klub) was the best Serbian club before World War II, winning five titles in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and one cup. Ahead of its time, BSK had the most modern stadium in the Balkans, which included floodlights. The team also had some international success, reaching the Mitropa Cup semifinals in 1939 and 1940. At the 1930 FIFA World Cup, where Yugoslavia went to the semifinals, BSK fielded eight players.

The club continued competing in German-occupied Serbia during the war, but after the Axis defeat, the new regime decided to shut it down, together with their biggest rival, SK Jugoslavija. Instead, they formed FK Partizan and FK Crvena Zvezda, which have separate legacies. The same goes for OFK Beograd, which is often claimed to be its successor. However, as the club was established before BSK was shut down, that doesn't make much sense.

3. Dalian Shide F.C.  (China)

The beginning of the end for Dalian Shide

Founded in 1955, Dalian Shide became one of China's first professional football clubs, transitioning from amateur status in 1993. In the next decade, they were the most dominant team in the country, winning eight titles and nine major cups. They were also very successful internationally, reaching the Asian Champions League and Asian Cup Winner's Cup finals. 

However, after winning the title in 2005, the club declined sharply, barely staying up in their last two seasons in 2011 and 2012. By that point, Dalian Shide owed $50 million, as their owner was arrested for corruption. After an unsuccessful merger with Dalian Professional, Dalian Shide was officially disbanded. Dalian Shide also had a team playing in a foreign league, competing in Singapore's championship. However, they existed only for a single season. 

2. New York Cosmos (United States)

The whole New York Cosmos story!

When you think about the early days of professional soccer in the United States, New York Cosmos is the first team that comes to mind. That's not a surprise, as they were the dominant force in the North American Soccer League. With five titles, they are by far the most successful team in the history of the competition. However, its superstars, including Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Neeskens, and Carlos Alberto, made Cosmos famous. 

With Pelé coming in 1975, Cosmos soon became known worldwide and made the NASL very profitable. They also played friendly matches against famous teams and players, including Maradona. Yet, the Brazilian's retirement in 1977 made both fans and media lose interest. Even before NASL folded in 1985, Cosmos was in financial trouble and sold some of its best players. After a season in Major Indoor Soccer League, the club was gone. In 2010, the new New York Cosmos was established, with Pelé serving as an honorary president. However, this is still considered a separate entity.

1. Wimbledon F.C. (England)

The most famous Wimbledon moment!

Established in 1889, Wimbledon was a minor team playing in local amateur competitions. However, they rose steadily since the seventies, reaching the elite league in 1986. These first years in the top division were highly successful, as the club often finished among the top eight teams. However, their most famous moment came in 1988, as they won the FA Cup. At the time, Wimbledon was known as the Crazy Gang, thanks to many eccentric players, including Dennis Wise or Vinnie Jones. The whole team was often accused of very rough play and a lack of skills.

After barely staying up in the Premier League for several seasons, Wimbledon was finally relegated in 2000, never to come back. Only a year later, the board decided to relocate the club before it went into administration. Later, they also changed their name to Milton Keynes Dons, and since 2004, Wimbledon F.C. is no more. In 2002, former supporters founded AFC Wimbledon, keeping the traditional club colors.

As the cost of running a football club rises, we are pretty sure that this list will have to change in the future. FIFA and local organizations will have to do much more to develop a sustainable environment, where financial fair play is only the first step.

What is your favorite former football club? Do you know some clubs which are currently at the edge of falling into obscurity?

Photo: Stephen Hateley/Unsplash


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