Scott Musgrave

Many have been waiting for the credit crunch to finally stamp down on football, and it has finally done just that in Holland, and to the champions no less.

The worldwide economic impact has been felt in the midst of an already turbulent season for AZ Alkmaar. Whilst spending across the world seems to be at an all time high, with Real Madrid and Manchester City throwing seemingly endless amounts of money at the best players in the world, AZ’s main sponsor DSB, which the team’s stadium is named after, has filed for bankruptcy. This has left the team without its shirt sponsor, not to mention the handy amount of Euros that came along with the deal.

With a couple of rescue bids on the table for DSB bank only a few days before the declaration, hopes where high that DSB might make a great escape and avoid destruction. However, terms could not be struck within the guidelines set out by the courts and the rest has become history.

AZ recently met against Arsenal in the Champions League, running out to face the English side without a shirt sponsor. This might not be the last time that this happens. With AZ already having trouble domestically in their efforts to retain their Eredivisie crown, this latest scandal comes as a double blow for Ronald Koeman and his team. The Alkmaar based side seemingly cruised to the title under Louis van Gaal last year, easily seeing off the challenges of title holders PSV and annual contenders Ajax.

1x2tipster.comAfter somewhat unluckily coming undone at the final hurdle when current boss Ronald Koeman was with PSV (who claimed the title on the final day of the 2006/07 season) they finally became Eredivisie top-dogs, bagging some deserved silverware after a disappointing 2007/08 campaign.

This year’s campaign has been a very different one with mixed fortunes highlighted by a series of up and down results. Mounir El Hamadaoui , last season’s golden boot winner, has been struggling to reproduce the form which landed him that accolade. His goals have been sorely missed.

AZ are suffering from the fact that there is no other genuine goalscorer in their squad, someone able to take over from El Hamadaoui when the Moroccan hit-man is not in form. Indeed, the 25-year-old is the only striker recognised as being capable of providing 15 or more goals per season.

Recent losses to NEC Nijmegen, Greek champions Olympiacos, Utrecht and a draw against Steve McClaren’s Twente side have heaped the pressure on the defending champions to turn their form around and start getting some favourable results. The longer it takes to get back on track the greater the chance that a successful title defence has slipped away.
The current Eredivisie league table sees AZ comfortably behind leaders Twente. It’s not impossible for AZ to claim the title, particularly as it is still so early in the season, but with problems up front, and financial worries now coming to the fore, it is hard to see an immediate improvement in performances as being forthcoming.

AZ were the first team in a long while to break the dominance of the so called big three (Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV) in Dutch football and with this financial blow, it threatens to derail long term ambitions at the Alkmaar club as much as short term. With DSB backing the side, AZ were guaranteed a budget that was one of the mightiest in the league, competing with Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV off the pitch as well as on it.

With the latest victim of the global financial crisis now all but removed for the world, AZ Alkmaar are left with a lot of work to do to find a new sponsor to secure the future of the club. To avoid a return to the traditional three party system, many in Holland will hope they succeed.

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