Ahead of Arsenal’s game against Östersund, we spoke to Arsenal’s official supporter’s group from the country and their vice president, Malin Hägg, who kindly wrote this article which includes how Arsenal ended up with a fan group in the country, how it’s grown and events they are organising for travelling fans ahead of Thursday’s match.
Throughout the years there’s been a fair few Swedish players at Arsenal – albeit some more successful than others.
Who doesn’t remember Stefan Schwartz, Anders Limpar and Freddie Ljungberg? Rami Shaaban, Sebastian Larsson, Kristoffer Olsson and Kim Källström might be more easily forgotten but they all had their time at the club.
With that in mind, it might not be strange that Arsenal Sweden (official name Arsenal FC Supporters Club Sweden) is one of the strongest international supporters’ groups in Europe.
However, the story goes further back than that.
English football has always been popular in Scandinavia.
In Sweden it dates back to the TV show Tipsextra, which started in 1969. It was a football show dedicated to English football, broadcast every Saturday on SVT (the Swedish version of BBC).
Back then, we weren’t used football on television and the show soon became a classic. Since then, television rights have evolved, and today’s football shows bear little resemblance to the way it all started.
But what does this have to do with Arsenal and Arsenal Sweden?
Well, with the foundation of an interest in English football firmly laid out, the next step wasn’t far away. With Arsenal being a big club and with the successes we reached in 80s and 90s, it’s not strange that more and more people fell in love with the Gunners.
It was on August 11, 2001, that Arsenal Sweden was first founded by six people who shared a love for our boys in red and white.
The idea to start a Swedish supporters’ group came from a website, owned by Jocke Lander, which was originally a place for Swedish Gooners to meet and discuss everything Arsenal.
Back then, there was a Scandinavian supporters’ group that was run from Norway but the feeling amongst Swedes were that in order to take the next step, a separate group for Swedish fans was the way forwards.
That step was not easy though.
The club started as a branch of the English supporters’ club and during the season 2001/2002 Arsenal Sweden arranged the first meet up for a game when supporters met up in Stockholm and Malmö to watch Arsenal play Southampton. The supporters’ group grew quite a bit during that first season – much thanks to Arsenal’s great double at the end of the season which obviously raised interest in Arsenal even more.
In August 2002, a year after the club was first founded, Arsenal Sweden held its first annual meeting after receiving a letter from Arsenal with the requirements which needed to be met in order to be a completely separate supporters’ organisation.
From that point, the club grew quickly in numbers, but money was still sorely lacking.
That didn’t stop the board from starting several projects, though, and one of the most important was the magazine, Kanonmagasinet (translation: The Cannon Magazine).
The first issue came out after the end of the 2002/2003 season and contained a report from the FA Cup Final in Cardiff where Arsenal had defeated Southampton to win the cup yet again.
The 2002/2003 season also marked the beginning of the Arsenal Sweden web shop.
Back then, the orders had to be manually sent over to London every month before being re-packed upon arrival in Sweden and sent out to members. Perhaps not the quickest process in the world, but it was appreciated nonetheless, as the only way to get your hand on Arsenal merchandise before that was to go to London.
Coming into the season 2003/2004 the board was carefully optimistic that the numbers would continue to grow at the same steady pace – but they had no idea what was on horizon.
In October, SVT broadcasted the documentary “Hjärtat i Arsenal” (The Arsenal heart) which focused on the supporter, Tobias Allard, and his love for Arsenal FC. A few other members of Arsenal Sweden were also featured in the documentary. It was seen by more than 400,000 people and during that one season, the club jumped from 412 to 1,621 members by the close of season.
It was also during this season that it became possible to buy tickets for Arsenal’s home games through the club.
More than 260 tickets were sold in total during the season and there were only a handful of games where Arsenal Sweden wasn’t represented at all.
The first member’s trip was organised in February that season when 75 happy members travelled to London to see Arsenal beat Manchester City 2-1.
The 2004/2005 season is probably still the most eventful in the clubs’ history.
The club continued to grow, rapidly, and organised a lot of activities throughout the season.
A massive highlight was the chartered airplane that took 50 members from Stockholm Arlanda to Trondheim where Arsenal faced Rosenborg in the Champions League.
Not long after that, Arsenal Ladies came to Stockholm to play three games in one week.
Arsenal Sweden was at Stadion to see the Gunners beat Djurgården/Älvsjö 1-0 and after the game was finished the team came over to thank everyone that had come out to see them – a little surprised by the enthusiastic support! Perhaps that was the reason why, when they came back to Sweden that spring for the Champions League semi-final to face Djurgården/Älvsjö again, they readily accepted the invitation to dinner with the supporters’ group after the game.
The evening was a success and both the Arsenal Sweden members and the team had a great evening.
But even though the club continued to grow, it was clear that the increased number of members also meant higher expectations. The club was under pressure to continue to evolve, something that that was a bit of a challenge whilst keeping up the day-to-day business.
Aside from Kanonmagasinet, member trips and other pub meetings to watch the games, a lot of focus was put on the website and today the website provides the most important channel for the club.
10 years after Arsenal Sweden was established, in 2011, the club took a major step in its development as former Chairman Jocke Lander left his role to work as Operation Manager for Arsenal, with Axel Asplund replacing him as Chairman (a post he holds still today).
It was the first time Arsenal Sweden had someone paid by the club to work full-time with its development. This has proved incredibly valuable for the club’s continuous growth over the years since then and has been one of the reasons for the web shop’s success and arsenal.se’s journey to become a valuable source of news and other content for all Swedish Arsenal supporters.
Today, Arsenal Sweden has a over 6,000 members (slightly fewer than at the same point last year, something that most likely has to do with the team’s performance at the moment).
The club continues to organise trips, sell tickets, manage the web shop (which now runs a lot more smoothly than it did at the start!), produce Kanonmagasinet and arrange meet ups in pubs all over Sweden to watch Arsenal together.
Soon, it’s time for the club’s next big event when Arsenal face Östersunds FK in the knock-out stages of the Europa League.
Arsenal Sweden will be organising a get together at Bishop’s Arms, on Stortorget in Östersund, for all travelling supporters, on both Wednesday and Thursday before the game.
We are currently negotiating a deal for food and drink and will publish information in Swedish and English on arsenal.se as soon as we have it.
Come, be merry and drink with other supporters from all over Sweden and other countries. We look forward to welcome you all!