21 sty 2012

No future for ŁKS

Despite the worst defending record in Ekstraklasa, just four wins in seventeen games and lowering crowds, ŁKS ended the first round in good style against league leaders – they have lost narrowly and in dramatic circumstances but that was the kind of game their manager Ryszard Tarasiewicz hoped for – show strength and unity, win fans over and show there is still light and future. They were just above the relegation zone and with flat table and some character their chances to survive were better than they hoped for in the summer.

Back then, in June 2011, even before first ball was kicked in current Ekstraklasa season, I shared a blog for the Football Ramble about problems of clubs from Łódź, Widzew and ŁKS, with much saying title “Lodz of problems”. After describing the problems they faced over last few seasons and in the summer, I concluded that “once the city was regarded as an attractive one, it is now crumbling and standing away from the rest, who are developing so quickly, building new stadiums and looking to the future. The needs of Widzew and ŁKS are pushed to the side and soon the promises of new stadiums will be not enough – Ekstraklasa will look only for teams that are ready to take the challenge and can meet match license regulations. For now, both can just hope for a better future – whether it will come, it doesn’t depend on them alone…”

Just mere six months later Widzew is holding tight, despite their own problems, while ŁKS seemed struggling – they have already had four managers in seventeen games, no place to train, played at different stadium because of their own being a ruin, the crowds were getting lower, fans rather left the team and players were not paid for months. As sad as it sounds, there was small consolation for them, as the city’s authorities finally agreed to build new ground in the place of the old and ruined one – finally, after years of disgusting tactics of using it as an argument in political battle, promising much but then pushing the rising issue to the side. But it finally happened and the future for once look settled – only to this Friday, when ŁKS announced that there will be no Ekstraklasa football for them in the second round.

After the winter break started, the club already knew what a challenge it will be to make it through the season unharmed, and the repairing plan for their budget was kicked off – counting on the team in the first place, and their will to change current deals, take large pay cuts and reduce the debt at least to the point where their promises will be taken seriously and new investors will join. But players were unwilling to forget about the money they deserved, and at some point, larger part of the team was sent to reserves up to the moment when they were made to leave the club. Top performers, Sebastian Szałachowski, Marcin Kaczmarek and seven more left, while ŁKS decided to stay in the country for whole pre-season – they couldn’t afford going anywhere for the training camp.

But even more alarming signs were coming from the inside of the club – fans were angry at Marcin Kaczmarek who decided to leave for their arch-rivals Widzew, but when they abused the player, he decided to comment and said that he would take the deal at ŁKS, only if he hadn’t have a wife and a kid. Desperation pushed another quality player out of the club, while angry current manager, Ryszard Tarasiewicz went mad before one of training sessions, arguing with his footballers that should take their pride over financial problems and help the club in the toughest moment of ŁKS’ modern history.

The big trials started as Tarasiewicz was looking to strengthen his weakened squad with loan deals from whatever opposite club that was willing to pay the whole contract during footballer’s stay at ŁKS. He was close to signing several of them, along with those that somehow concluded that trials there could possibly be a smart idea. But they are not going to sign a deal anytime soon, they were sent home. ŁKS announced this Friday that they are bankrupting and will not take part in the second part of the season. The decision was made on the basis that three members of the squad decided to refuse club’s offer of repairing finances and renovating their deals. With no such willingness from the squad, there is no point for them to continue the work they once took – with no help from any side, not that they weren’t looking, the challenge to keep ŁKS alive was too much for them.

But there is hope in the team and it is connected with the stadium, or rather plans of building the new one. When they decided to finally have a one of European standards in Łódź as well, one of the clubs that could play there was going out of the business. Of course, the latest reaction from ŁKS, full of desperation and sadness, could be also a last hope they have, that the help needed could come from the city’s budget – some sort of ramp that will make someone decide about injections of two millions Polish Zlotys that will be enough to play for the rest of the season.

What then, one ambitious fan may ask? No one knows the answer to that question but what is more, no one even dares to think of what may follow after current season ends and ŁKS is still in the business. It is not the matter of being in Ekstraklasa or lower league but fans still having their club, someone to support. It seems that despite ambitious plans to reestablish former champions to their place in Polish football, many steps were overlooked again, while the short-term thinking once again was the only tactics in running the club – when the fourteenth anniversary of ŁKS goalless draw with Manchester United in the Champions League will come this October, there might not be anybody to celebrate that golden age. Only the ones that will turn of the light at the ruined ground, leaving it for anybody that will follow the ŁKS that we know now.

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