Europa League competitors in 2017-18, FC Luzern have rarely set the Swiss League alight but have always been able to count on a loyal and lively fan base.
Die Leuchten reached three cup finals over the course of a decade, losing out on penalties to FC Basel in 2012. For their Europa League campaign of 2014-15, penalties again proved the curse, St Johnstone winning out in the shoot-out in Perth.
In fact, FCL, also known as the Blau-Weiß, have only three major trophies to their name, one title and two cups, and their fans in blue-and-white have long envied the success of Basel or Grasshopper Zürich.
Like FC Basel, FCL’s foundation came about through an ad in the local paper, in this case the ‘Luzerner Tagblatt’. On May 6 1897, interested parties were invited to meet at the Café Alpenclub. Four years later, at the Restaurant Seidenhof, FCL came into being.
For most of the next six decades, FCL were an mid-range football power in the Central Swiss region, occasionally hiring foreign coaches such as ex-Gillingham forward Horace F Williams and much-travelled Hungarian Ferenc Kónya.
Silverware only came after the war. FCL had moved into the Stadion Allmend, in the area of the same name on the outskirts of town, in 1934. For the cup semi-final with Young Boys Berne in 1959, 18,000 squeezed into the Allemend to see a 3-1 win take the Blau-Weiß the final in Berne. There, against FC Grenchen, a late solitary goal from substitute Robert Blättler earned FCL a first Swiss Cup.
Luzern were duly thrashed by Fiorentina in the subsequent inaugural Cup-Winners’ Cup, setting the unfortunate trend of poor performances in Europe.
Always able to attract good crowds to the Allemend despite inconsistent form, FCL improved in the 1980s with well known strikers such as Ottmar Hitzfeld and David Fairclough.
The breakthrough came with the arrival of Friedel Rausch in 1985. A UEFA-Cup winning coach with Eintracht Frankfurt, Rausch spend seven years at Lucerne, most notably taking the club to their one and only title in 1989. Midfield mastery from Jürgen Mohr and crucial goals from Peter Nadig allowed FCL to level with Grasshopper at the top, before the Zürich side were beaten in front of a record crowd at the Allmend with a single late goal. Another solitary goal, fittingly from Mohr, saw FCL win the title against Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s Servette.
The FCL side the following season, with Danish international John Eriksen and fellow striker Adrian Knup, was, on balance, better – but had to be satisfied with the Swiss Cup, in 1992.
League form continued to waver, though later cup runs included final appearances in 1997, 2005 and 2007, all unsuccessful. Shoot-out defeat to Basel at the same stage in 2012 was particularly painful.
On the plus side, FCL had the courage to invest in the future, the €65 million swissporarena they helped finance replacing the venerable Allmend on the club’s 110th anniversary. This 21st-century arena now requires a club who can challenge Switzerland’s best – and bring European football here on a regular basis.
FCL have been based in the area of Allmend since the beginning. In the early 1900s, the newly formed club first played on park pitches in this picturesque area on the southern outskirts of town, players changing at the Eichhof bowling alley whose bar/restaurant still operates today as a pre- and post-match haunt.
FCL then moved to Tribschen, overlooking the lake, where Richard Wagner once had a villa. Logistical problems brought FCL back to Allmend, where they built a 10,000-capacity ground in 1934.
Twenty years later, facilities were modernised and expanded. With regular European competition in the 1960s, a new stand was erected and floodlights. Security was upgraded in 1974 after an unfortunate referee was pelted with snowballs, and a new stand added with the rising attendances of the 1980s.
By the time talk turned to a new stadium in 2006, capacity at the ageing Allmend was reduced to 13,000. Raising some SF79 million with the help of the City and Canton of Lucerne, and private investors, FCL had architects Daniel Marques and Iwan Bühler create a contemporary, 17,000-capacity venue suitable even for Switzerland internationals: the swissporarena.
Completed in 2011, it displays a distinctive gold-tinted exterior, its name in bright primary colours, the interior seating blue, FCL lettering clearly outlined. For domestic fixtures, 3,000 standing places fill sectors B2-3 in the home end, B Tribüne (blue, natürlich). Away fans are allocated C6, at the opposite end of Tribüne C (red), which faces the main stand, Tribüne A (yellow). Tribüne D (green), including the Family Corner, is behind the other goal.
The nearest transport stop is right beside the stadium, the No.20 bus. It runs every 7min, and takes 7min to go five stops from Lucerne train station, where the stop is clearly marked near the archway. Alternatively, a 5min walk away towards town by the roundabout is the Allmend/Messe S-Bahn stop, one stop south on the S4 (direction Stans or Wolfenschlessen) and S5 (direction Giswil) lines from Lucerne station. Trains leave every 15min, usually from platform 14.
A valid match ticket allows free use of the bus or S-Bahn to and from the stadium for up to three hours before and after the game.
Advance tickets are sold at the FCL-Fanshop (Mon-Fri 9am-6pm) behind D Tribüne and at the LZ-Corner of the ‘Neue Luzerner Zeitung’ (Pilatusstraße 12, Mon-Fri 9.30am-6pm, Sat 9.30am-4pm) in town. On match days, ticket kiosks 1 and 2 operate behind A Tribüne on main Horwerstraße. Visiting fans should use kiosk No.5, cash only.
Online sales operate through Eventim on the club website.
For domestic fixtures, standing tickets (B Tribüne) are SF28. Seats alongside are SF33, SF41 behind the opposite goal (D Tribüne), and SF58 in the sideline C Tribüne. The best seats in the A Tribüne are SF62-SF100. In most sectors, children (6-15s) are half-price. Visiting fans are charged an across-the-board SF28 for a seat in sector C6.
For European games, there are only seated tickets, SF43-SF70 in A, SF23 in B, SF29 in D, and SF41-SF48 in C. Away fans are charged SF20.
You’ll find toy FCL lions amid the rows of blue dressing gowns, T-shirts and replica kits at the FCL-Fanshop (Mon-Fri 9am-6pm) behind D Tribüne.
Right beside the stadium, the Wirtschaft zum Schützenhaus is a traditional restaurant done out in Swiss chalet style with an easy-on-the-eye hunting theme. Steaks are the speciality – though a T-bone will set you back an equally hulking SF54. Local Eichhof beer may accompany, or provide handy pre-match refreshment on its own.
A short walk back towards town, set back from the main road, the Allmend (Moosmattstraße 51) is the equally traditional bar/restaurant attached to the bowling alley where FCL players used to change in the park-pitch days. The daily menu is affordable.
Further along, the Restaurant Militärgarten was here decades before FCL were founded. Swiss (and Sturm Graz) scarves decorate a lovely old wooden interior, where pizzas, Eichhof beer and Hubertus dark ale are served. It has a summer terrace, too.
At the end of the street, the nearest hotel, the Spatz also runs a bar/restaurant.
Around the stadium, food and drinks are paid for by smartcard, free of charge from clearly marked kiosks and at branches of Migros supermarkets. Fans in the away sector only may pay by cash or smartcard.