LASK

Revived in 2013, Bundesliga runners-up in 2019, LASK have waited half a century to regain the limelight after their groundbreaking double of 1965.

The first club outside Vienna to win the Austrian title, Linzer Athletik-Sport-Klub give their foundation year as 1908, when Linzer Sport-Klub first appeared. Albert Siems, head of the local Postbus transport line, had come to Linz in the early 1900s, having played with the Vienna Cricket and Football-Club.

Raiffeisen Arena/Peterjon Cresswell

Local industry had attracted the likes of English dye-maker Percy Lowe while an army garrison housed sportsmen doing national service, such as footballer Otto Zwicker. Players from just over the border in Bohemia were also lured to Linz.

Siems founded LSK, who played friendlies from 1908, then, as the strongest team in town, unofficial regional league fixtures in 1912. Games were played near the Children’s Hospital.

After World War I, LSK players who survived joined the newly founded Linzer Athletik-Sport-Klub – which is why today’s LASK are considered the successors to Siems’ club of 1908.

While the ‘Austrian league’ was actually for Viennese teams only, the Upper Austria Championship was competitive enough, and won by LASK, eight times in nine years. They also won the first restructured regional league after Germany swallowed up Austria in 1938.

The war left Linz devastated but from it arose a new sports ground, the Linzer Stadion, opened in 1952. Also emerging from the conflict was Georg ‘Schurl’ Braun, a former member of the Austrian Wunderteam who survived a Soviet POW camp to coach LASK to another Upper Austria title in 1950.

Raiffeisen Arena/Peterjon Cresswell

This led to a first campaign in the top, professional flight, against the likes of Rapid and Austria Vienna, and crowds of up to 30,000 for their visits to the Linzer Stadion. Lesser fixtures were played at the LASK-Platz on Paul-Hahn-Straße.

Runners-up in the league and then the cup in the early 1960s, the Schwarz und Weiß took a surprise title in 1965 – July 1965. Bad weather had pushed the climax of the season well into summer. With LASK and Rapid Vienna neck-and-neck, the Austrian FA had brought in referees from Germany to underline lack of bias. As Rapid, who had led the league all season, were losing 1-0 to Graz, LASK were winning at First Vienna 2-0, overtaking the record champions. Not only the first provincial club to win the Austrian league, LASK overcame Wiener Neustadt to become the first winners from outside Vienna.

This unexpected double was not followed by European progress – in fact, until 2019-20, LASK had a poor record at international level. Nearly 20,000 gathered in the Linzer Stadion to see the Silesians of Górnik Zabrze canter to a 3-0 lead before the hour. In fact, the one bright night at the Linzer Stadion pre-2019 came in October 1985 when a late LASK goal put Internazionale – Rummenigge, Altobelli and all – to the sword. A Liam Brady penalty and Altobelli hat-trick at the San Siro soon reversed the aggregate.

Raiffeisen Arena/Rudi Jansen

Domestically as well, LASK had long fallen behind, with spells in the second tier. Debt eventually consumed the club in 1995 and though bankruptcy was postponed, a merger with equally cash-strapped rivals FC Linz became the only solution two years later. As if the move wasn’t controversial enough, a bizarre last derby took place ten days afterwards to fulfil a fixture obligation.

The renamed LASK Linz at least produced good form on the pitch, reaching the Austrian Cup final in 1999, a shoot-out loss to league champions Sturm Graz leading to European participation and inevitable disappointment. Behind the scenes, club president Wolfgang Rieger’s bank went bust.

With their best players sold, LASK Linz set a few unwanted records for low attendances before slowly climbing back up thanks to the prolific Ivica Vastić, the former Sturm Graz star whose own goal had given Linz the lead in that fateful cup final of 1999.

Raiffeisen Arena/Rudi Jansen

A Bundesliga force once more, the Schwarz und Weiß sadly ensured their stay was a short one thanks to constant disagreements between club president Peter Reichel and whichever coach he had just hired.

Another financial meltdown ensued, but this time, it involved a drop to the regional league and an enforced move from the Linzer Stadion to the modest community of Schwanenstadt, 40km from Linz. This shameful state of affairs stayed in place until December 2013, when a group of 14 investors – Friends of LASK – took the club out of the hands of Peter Reichel, leaving him to his main area of expertise, women’s tennis.

Winning the regional division and returning the professional fold in 2014-15, LASK achieved promotion out of the second tier in 2017 to regain Bundesliga status after six years. The club also regained its original acronym, dropping ‘Linz’ and associations with their rival locals, now revived as Blau-Weiß.

Raiffeisen Arena/Rudi Jansen

It wasn’t all smooth sailing, though – the ultimately successful campaign of 2016-17 had started with a move to the rebuilt Waldstadion out by Linz airport in Pasching. Poor segregation led to violent scenes when a rare city derby was staged there. Today’s compact Raiffeisen Arena will be LASK’s home until 2022, when they are due to return to a revamped Linzer Stadion. European games are still conducted at this venerable ground, which is fortunate as 2018 saw the Schwarz und Weiß not only return to the international stage but actually overcome foreign opposition. Goals from former Blau-Weiß attacking midfielder Thomas Goiginger helped demolish Lillestrøm 4-0 while a crowd of nearly 14,000 saw LASK on the point of toppling silverware-laden Besiktas, until a 90th-minute away goal sent the Turks into the play-off round of the Europa League.

Better was to follow in 2019-20. Having finished well above the pack as runners-up in the Bundesliga in 2019, a best showing since 1965, LASK claimed a Champions League debut.

Raiffeisen Arena/Peterjon Cresswell

Oliver Glasner, the coach behind the club’s rise since 2015, and top scorer, Brazilian João Victor, were then both tempted away by Germany’s Wolfsburg but LASK found football gold in Valérien Ismaël. This former Crystal Palace centre-back and Bayern Munich double-winner stepped up to the plate as coach. On the pitch, 2018-19 top assist-maker Peter Michorl continued to impress, leading LASK to a record start to the season and, most impressively, memorable wins in both legs over European stalwarts FC Basel. With a berth in the Champions League group stage begging, LASK twice hit the woodwork at home to Bruges but failed to reply to the visitors’ early penalty at the Linzer Stadion.

A 2-1 defeat in Belgium then sent LASK into the Europa League, where impressive wins at the Linzer Stadion over PSV Eindhoven and Sporting Lisbon pushed Ismaël’s side into the knock-out stage. Austrian under-21 international Marko Raguž duly notched all three goals in a 3-1 aggregate win over AZ Alkmaar. A dream tie with Manchester United in the next round lined up, LASK lost significant revenue when the game was forced to be played behind closed doors as the coronavirus swept Europe but were top of the Bundesliga when the domestic programme was stopped in mid March.

Raiffeisen Arena/Rudi Jansen

Stadium

Short-lived home of LASK until 2022, the Raiffeisen Arena sits close to Linz Airport by a cluster of houses and businesses, Wagram, north of the district of Pasching. Base for LASK since 2016-17, the former Waldstadion was first built in 1990.

It long-term tenants until 2007 were local ASKÖ Pasching, formed in 1946 and a major contender in Austrian football in the early 2000s. Three straight promotions drove the Schwarz-Grün to the Bundesliga in 2003, finishing in third spot twice, making the semi-finals of the Austrian Cup and qualifying for Europe on four occasions.

The first, the Inter-Toto Cup of 2003, featured the 4-0 thrashing here of Werder Bremen, two goals coming from then current Austrian international Edi Gleider. In the home leg of the final, Schalke 04 were held to a 0-2 scoreline. Two seasons running in the UEFA Cup, the visits of Zenit St Petersburg led to a 3-3 aggregate tie and a loss on away goals. The club later acquired the dubious name of FC Superfund – but still known by all as Pasching.

Raiffeisen Arena/Rudi Jansen

Mutating into SK Austria Kärnten and moving right across the country to Klagenfurt towards the Slovenian border, the Black-and-Greens re-mutated back to FC Pasching and relocated to the Waldstadion. Then a quite remarkable thing happened: they won the Austrian Cup. Away wins over Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg swept Pasching to the national Ernst-Happel-Stadion in Vienna, where a solitary Daniel Sobkova goal sank Austria Vienna.

As if following LASK’s lead, Pasching then flopped in Europe, another Sobkova strike the only goal they registered in a 4-1 aggregate defeat by Estoril. The home leg was hosted at the Linzer Stadion.

Partly thanks to its location near the airport, the Waldstadion did host a handful of international fixtures, though, such as Austria’s 1-1 draw with Holland at U-21 level here in 2002, a crowd of 5,000-plus watching teenagers Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie in the Dutch forward line. Waldstadion staged the World Cup final – of fistball, even more bizarre as the German Faustball, a clenched-fisted cousin of volleyball.

Raiffeisen Arena/Peterjon Cresswell

FC Pasching then became Juniors OÖ (can that be chanted?), swallowed up as LASK Juniors OÖ when they became the second string of team of the new tenants.

Winning promotion from the Regionalliga Mitte in 2018, Juniors https://www.fcjuniors.at/ then separated from LASK in order to compete in the second flight. The club shares the Raiffeisen Arena with LASK.

Adapted from the Waldstadion in 2016, completely renovated in 2017, this 6,000-capacity ground comprises a main covered West-Tribüne where the Business Club is located, and a roofed standing terrace lining the opposite Ost-Tribüne. Home fans occupy the standing terrace behind the Nord-Tribüne goal, while the away Gästesektor takes up a third of the Süd-Tribüne parallel to Poststraße. This has its own entrance beside the gate at the wheelchair-accessible end of the West-Tribüne.

Note that LASK’s home legs for European fixtures are played at the Linzer Stadionsee Blau-Weiß Linz.

LASK transport/Peterjon Cresswell

Transport

The Raiffeisen Arena may be close, just over 3km as the crow flies, from Linz Airport, but you’ll still be paying the minimum taxi fare of €15 if you’re hopping immediately from plane to stadium. The journey, though, is barely ten minutes.

Coming from town, from the main square of Hauptplatz and main station of Hauptbahnhof, tram Nos.3 and 4 (every 15-20min, Mon-Sat only, not Sun or hols) both go to the nearest stop to the stadium, Wagram, journey times 25min and 15min respectively. Weekdays, the last service back to town is just after 6pm, Saturdays just after. From Wagram tram stop, walk 100 meters up to Auto Rittmann, turn left, then left again down Poststraße – allow 10min.

The nearest bus service, No.625, is infrequent at best doesn’t link with Linz. An hourly S-Bahn regional train from Linz/Donau main station in town takes 7min to reach Pasching (2 stops), from where it’s a 2km walk straight down Kürnbergstraße.

LASK tickets/Peterjon Cresswell

Tickets

A handful of outlets distribute advance tickets, from around three weeks before the match. These include the LASK Verkaufsstelle in the Service-Zone (Mon-Fri 9.30am-7pm, Sat 9am-6pm) on the first floor of the Passage Linz on Landstraße in Linz and the Mach Sport store (Mon-Wed 9.30am-7pm, Thur-Fri 9.30am-9pm, Sat 9am-6pm) on the ground floor of the PlusCity mall in Pasching near the stadium. You can also visit the ticket windows (Tue 9am-1pm, Wed, Thur 9am-5pm, Fri 9am-noon) just inside the main gates of the Raiffeisen Arena or register and buy online (German-only).

LASK tickets/Rudi Jansen

On match days, the ticket offices open two hours before kick-off – with average crowds hovering not far off capacity at around 5,500, it may be worth emailing the club, ticket@lask.at.

For most Bundesliga games, prices hover around it’s €18 for a seat (€16 in advance), €16 to stand (€14).

LASK shop/Peterjon Cresswell

Shop

The modest LASK Shop (Tue-Fri 10am-2pm, match days) at the club offices just inside the main entrance to the stadium stocks a standard range of zebra-striped gear, the design snazzily pin-striped for 2019-20. Away tops are the reverse, predominantly black with thin white vertical lines.

Among the curiosities is a match-day scarf for the 2019-20 LASK-Manchester United match that no fan could attend and T-shirts designed for that long-awaited international campaign, ‘Europa ist Schwarz und Weiss’, an LASK logo proudly signified in the heart of the continent.

LASK Zipfer bar/Rudi Jansen

Bars

With nothing but residential housing and little businesses in the surrounding library-quiet streets, the only drinking options are at the stadium itself. Alongside, the outdoor Wagram public pool has its own bar/restaurant serving Zipfer beer with a separate entrance, but both facilities only open between May and August.

LASK VIP marquee/Peterjon Cresswell

VIPs and sponsors can take advantage of the large white marquee at the far Nord-Tribüne end of the main stand while above, a match-day bar on the first floor gives fans a perfect view from a raised terrace on that same corner. This is the main attraction of the Zipfer-Fanzone, for which a hefty fee is levied either on the day or over the course of the season.

For away fans and neutrals, one option might be in the PlusCity mall one tram stop/10min walk away, where the Grillamt outlet on the ground floor finds room for a proper bar counter with great on-tap options, surrounded by shelves of sought-after beers and barbecue equipment.


Share.