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24 What’s that Coming Over The Hill? Oldheatonian+ Last month I had the pleasure of spending an evening with a group of supporters and officials from SV Salzburg as they visited the North East and took in our league game against Aston Villa. There is something special about mixing with fans from other countries and listening to how they see football and how important it is to them; how passionate they are for their club and what they will do to ensure that its name is not damaged or its history tainted. However; the tale of SV Salzburg is something else and one that needs to be shouted from the rooftops when calls are made for corporations to come in and rescue a club from a belligerent owner. Here is their story. *On the 6th April 2005 Red Bull took control of the Salzburg Sport AG company and therefore also took control of the football club Austria Salzburg. Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz publicly introduced his football advisor, Franz Beckenbauer, and the resigning chairman, Rudi Quehenberger, announced he was thrilled to see that "years of hard work for the benefit of football in Salzburg" had finally paid off. The initial reaction to the takeover was euphoric, even amongst the long-standing and most loyal fan groups. No more than a handful of fans harboured any feeling of foreboding as regarded the possible course of events in the following few months. However, during the initial few weeks following the takeover the first rumours of a break with the traditional deep purple and white club colours began to circulate amongst the fans. The talk was of a new FC Red Bull kit in red, blue and silver. This triggered demonstrations, petitions and a flood of open letters to newspapers from every corner of the Violett/Weiss fan community. Despite several activities organised by the fans in defence of club traditions the new managers remained completely unimpressed. Although the general assembly on the 4th June 2005 resolved to placate more traditional-minded club members by supporting a decision to keep the Violett/Weiss club colours, nine days later the truth came out. On the 13th June 2005 the team for the new season was introduced to the press and the general public at a venue known as Hangar 7. The players appeared with red and white home kits and blue away kits. Deep purple had been erased from the club’s identity! To add insult to injury, instead of bearing ‘1933’, the club’s true year of foundation, the management had decided the club had been established in ‘2005’, something the Austrian F.A. insisted be changed immediately. Being the legal successor of the previous owner and club title the official identity of the club had to be maintained in order to entitle the club to the license to play in the Bundesliga, otherwise the newly-founded club would have to begin life in the bottom division in the country. Further evidence of this clean break with all the traditions of the past, and proof it was a completely new start, was to be found in the player profiles; the profiles of players who had played for Austria Salzburg in the previous year: ‘Previous club: SV Salzburg’. Red Bull Salzburg made it very obvious that it saw itself as a completely new entity, with quote: “with no history and no records", and no longer wished to be associated with SV Austria Salzburg in any way – other than the fact that the club had served as a means of obtaining the licence to play Bundesliga football. These and countless other absurdities led a large group of supporters, fan clubs and sympathisers to launch the Violett-Weiss Initiative (IVW) on the 30th June 2005. The aim was to uphold the traditions of SV Austria Salzburg, also within the new Red Bull Salzburg environment. At first IVW cause fell upon deaf ears. However, the more the new ‘wonder team’ failed to perform to their inflationary expectations, the more column space was devoted by the press to the so-called ‘club colours conflict’. Red Bull strategists sensed the image of the club was being damaged and invited the IVW to hold talks.