Skonto FC was a Latvian professional football club, active from 1991 until 2016. The club played at the Skonto Stadium in Riga. Skonto won the Virsliga in the first 14 seasons of the league's resumption (15 in total), and often provided the core of the Latvia national football team. With those 14 national championships in a row, they set a European record, men and women's football combined, until the women of Faroese club KÍ Klaksvík won their 14th championship in a row in 2013.
|Full name||Skonto Football Club|
|Founded||15 December 1991|
|Dissolved||1 December 2016|
|Ground||Skonto Stadium, Riga|
|League||Latvian First League|
Fourteen titles in a row (1991–2004) edit
Skonto FC was founded in 1991, and immediately started to win league championships, 14 in a row, until finishing second to FK Liepājas Metalurgs in 2005. In 2006, Skonto finished third in a close contest with FK Liepājas Metalurgs and FK Ventspils. Skonto also won the Latvian Cup on eight occasions, most recently in 2012.
Skonto had to win their early titles in fierce competition with FK Olimpija from Liepāja and RAF Jelgava. An additional game was required in 1992 season to break a tie and decide the winner. In the same 1992 season, Skonto FC made its debut in the Champion's League by beating the Faroe Islands champions Klaksvíkar Ítróttarfelag. At season's end, Aleksandrs Starkovs took over from Marks Zahodins as coach.
For the next 10 years in the domestic league none of their rivals were able to offer significant opposition to Skonto. For two seasons running the team did not lose a single match, surpassing their closest rivals by more than 20 points in the final standings, ensuring the regular title was awarded long before the end of the season. During the 1998 season, Skonto FC thrashed FK Valmiera 15–2, scoring the highest number of goals in a single game in the club's history.
During these years Skonto FC supplied the Latvian national team with most of its players: Māris Verpakovskis, Marians Pahars, Aleksandrs Koliņko, Vitālijs Astafjevs, Igors Stepanovs, Imants Bleidelis, Juris Laizāns, Mihails Zemļinskis, Valentīns Lobaņovs, Andrejs Rubins, and others. In 2004, a Latvian squad stocked with Skonto players managed to qualify for the UEFA Euro 2004 championship in Portugal.
Defender Mihails Zemļinskis has made the most appearances for the club in domestic competition (252), and the most in European cup ties as well (52). Mihails Miholaps is Skonto's all-time top scorer with 155 goals in 216 domestic matches, and 18 in 38 European cup matches. In July 2000 Skonto defender Igors Stepanovs was sold to the English Premier League club Arsenal for a fee around £1 million. In January 2001 midfielder Juris Laizāns joined the Russian Premier League side CSKA Moscow for £1,57 million, the highest ever transfer fee received by a Latvian club to date.
Skonto's first major victory in the European came in 1994, when they defeated Scotland's Aberdeen F.C., former European Super Cup winners; and in 1999 Skonto managed a 0–0 draw at home with Chelsea in a UEFA Champions League qualifier after losing 3–0 away two weeks earlier in what was Chelsea's first game in the Champions League. Skonto FC also played as Latvian champion against European giants Barcelona and Internazionale.
An exciting battle for the Latvian championship title occurred again in the final round of the 2001 season when Skonto trailed FK Ventspils by two points as they faced an away match against Liepājas Metalurgs, a team which also had hopes of becoming champions. Ventspils lost their match; Skonto won theirs; and Skonto were Latvian champions once more.
End of the winners' era (2005–2009) edit
Starting from 2005 Liepājas Metalurgs and FK Ventspils were in a close pursuit of Skonto, with their attempts proving to be successful. It has to be noted that in 2004, the head coach Aleksandrs Starkovs – one of the essential pillars of the club – left Skonto FC by accepting a proposal to work at Spartak Moskva, that time champions of Russia. The leadership of the team was entrusted to Jurijs Andrejevs, his long-term assistant, but after the loss against FK Rabotnički, of the Republic of Macedonia, Skopje in the UEFA Champions League qualification tournament, he resigned from the post. Jurijs Andrejevs was replaced by Paul Ashworth, who had previously worked with FK Ventspils and FK Rīga in the Latvian Higher League and FC Rostov in the Russian Premier League.
Champions again (2010) edit
On 8 July 2010, Skonto lost in the Europa League first qualifying round to the Northern Irish club Portadown. In the first leg Skonto drew 1–1 away from home after an equaliser in injury time. They lost 1–0 at home and went out to a team who hadn't won a European tie in 36 years. Consolation came later in the season, when Skonto drew 2–2 at home to win the Latvian Higher League title for the first time since 2004. It was yet again done under the management of Aleksandrs Starkovs.
Financial crisis and bankruptcy (2011–2016) edit
In 2012 founder of the club and long-term president Guntis Indriksons left the post, as it was incompatible with the president's post of the Latvian Football Federation according to the newly established rules. Former player Vladimirs Koļesņičenko took over and, furthermore, the club's manager Marians Pahars accepted an offer to become the head coach of Latvia national U-21 football team. In 2012 Skonto won the Latvian Cup for the first time since 2002 and guaranteed themselves a spot in the first qualifying round of 2013–14 UEFA Europa League, even though this was later succeeded once again following the league achievements in 2012.
In 2013 Georgian manager Tamaz Pertia took over and under his management Skonto went on playing without a single loss for 26 matches out of the league's 27 regular games. Run down by injuries with a short amount of reserves, they were defeated by FK Jelgava in the last round of the tournament losing the title to FK Ventspils. Skonto participated considerably well in the 2013–14 UEFA Europa League matches, beating Moldovan FC Tiraspol on aggregate in the first round and being close to knock out the Czech club Slovan Liberec, which later went on to reach Round of 32 of the tournament. In-mid summer Skonto were struck by severe financial problems as their sponsors ended the sponsorship program due to their own financial difficulties. This led to a major loss of income and long-term delays of salaries and other payments.
Before the start of the 2014 season Skonto, initially, were refused the A License necessary to play in the Latvian Higher League due to their long-term debts. However, the license was later obtained after a successful appeal. Sanctions followed from UEFA, with Skonto being disqualified from the 2014–15 UEFA Europa League, which they had qualified for. On 30 May 2014 the Latvian Football Federation issued a ban on Skonto registering new players during the summer transfer window until all the debts had been cleared. On 6 July, due to long-term non-payment of salaries, Skonto players refused to play the away match against FK Liepāja and the club suffered a 3–0 technical loss. On 14 July, club president Vladimirs Koļesņičenko announced his resignation and the club was taken over by Igors Zaicevs. On 2 September due to non-fulfillment of liabilities in the prescribed terms, LFF took away three points in the championship table, but on 17 September this penalty was reduced to just one point. On 14 October it was announced that Latvia's State Revenue Service had suspended the club's economic activity, with the possibility for an appeal to be submitted within one month. A day later, an additional four points were taken away in the tournament table, with Skonto losing even the theoretical chance to win the 2014 championship. The same day Skonto announced the resignation of its president Igors Zaicevs, but the club was still considering the option to submit an appeal to the State Revenue Service. In November 2014 it was announced that Skonto had finally cleared its debts with that time and previous players, still being indebted to the State Revenue Service.
Skonto did not obtain a license to play in the 2016 Higher League. Skonto appealed the decision, but the appeal was denied. Since 2015 Latvian First League runners-up Valmiera Glass FK/BSS rejected the opportunity to be promoted to the Higher League, 3rd placed Rīgas Futbola skola (RFS) was promoted instead. The club went bankrupt and left the first league in December 2016.
Since the club was denied a license to play in the Latvian First League, its remnants merged with RTU FC under the name of Skonto Academy before the start of the 2017 season. The team, now named RTU FC/Skonto Academy, played in the league until 2019, when it withdrew, possibly due to financial reasons.
Skonto played their home matches at the Skonto Stadium, which is also the home ground for Latvia national football team. The stadium was opened in 2000 and has a capacity of 10,000 people. Besides regular football matches this stadium has also hosted concerts of worldwide superstars like Depeche Mode, Massive Attack, Aerosmith and Metallica. The attendance of the last two was 32,000 and 33,000 people respectively. The record attendance in regards to a football match was reached on 15 November 2003, when Latvia beat Turkey 1–0 in the UEFA Euro 2004 qualification play-offs match and the game was attended by 9,500 spectators. The stadium is now used as the home-ground by the Latvian Higher League club Riga FC.
- Latvian Football Cup
- Baltic League
- Livonia Cup
- Winners: 2003, 2004, 2005
- Turkmenistan President's Cup
- Runners-up: 1996, 2009
Players and staff edit
Player of the season (since 2010) edit
|Marks Zahodins||1991–92||2 league titles, 1 Latvian Football Cup|
|Aleksandrs Starkovs||1 July 1993 – 2004, 1 Jan 2010 – 31 Dec 2010||12 league titles, 6 Latvian Football Cups|
|Jurijs Andrejevs||2004–05||1 league title|
|Paul Ashworth||2005 – 31 Dec 2009|
|Marians Pahars||1 Jan 2011 – 31 Dec 2012||1 Baltic League title, 1 Latvian Football Cup|
|Tamaz Pertia||1 Jan 2013 – 14 Nov 2016|
League and Cup history edit
Latvian SSR edit
Season Division (Name) Pos./Teams Pl. W D L GS GA P Latvian Football Cup Top Scorer (League) Head Coach 1991 1st (Latvian SSR Higher League) 1/(20) 36 29 5 2 83 15 63 Runner-up Jevgeņijs Gorjačilovs – 25 Marks Zahodins
European record edit
*Skonto FC were disqualified by UEFA due to long-term debts, not cleared in the restricted term
UEFA Team ranking 2014–15 edit
|344||FK Liepājas Metalurgs||3.100|
See also edit
- "KÍ maintain Faroe Islands monopoly". UEFA. 14 October 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
European record, set by Latvia's Skonto FC between 1991 and 2004
- "KÍ er føroyameistari" (in Faroese). Knassar. 12 October 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
KÍ-kvinnurnar settu eina tjúkka striku undir sítt 14. føroyameistaraheiti á rað, tá tær í dag vunnu 9–0 á ÍF í Fuglafirði.
- Menary, Steve (24 March 2017). "Mind the gap: the haves continue to flourish at the expense of the have-nots". World Soccer. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
- "Starkovs trenēs Maskavas Spartak". diena.lv. 31 August 2004. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- ""Skonto" trenēs Ešvorts". news.lv. 16 July 2005. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- "Skonto zaudē Portadown un izstājas no UEFA Eiropas līgas turnīra". diena.lv. 8 July 2010. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- "Skonto – 2010. gada LMT Virslīgas čempions futbolā". nra.lv. 31 October 2010. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
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- "Futbolavirsliga.lv". futbolavirsliga.lv. 12 May 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
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- ""Skonto" un "Jūrmalai" atņemti vēl četri punkti, intriga Virslīgā izplēn". sportacentrs.com. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- ""Skonto" apsver apelācijas iesniegšanu, Zaicevs vakar atkāpies no amata". sportacentrs.com. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
- "Uldriķis: "Spēlētāju uzticība tika atalgota ar divu gadu parādu atdošanu"". sportacentrs.com. 26 November 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
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- "Apelāciju komisija atstāj negrozītu Klubu licencēšanas komisijas lēmumu par LFF-A licences nepiešķiršanu "Skonto" FC". lff.lv (in Latvian). 11 February 2016. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- "RTU/"Skonto Academy" 1. līgā nespēlēs, "Bebri" apvienojas ar "Dinamo"". Sportacentrs.com (in Latvian). 9 January 2019. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
- "Skonto stadions". skontofc.com. Retrieved 8 October 2014.