Bergen’s SK Brann won their first trophy in 1923.
It’s late September 1908, when a group of lads meet at a café in Bergen, Norway. Fed up with the state of the other football clubs in the city, they decided to start their own. They called it Ski og Fodboldklubben Brann (Ski and Football Club Brann).
Starting on the first day of 1909 Brann started off its competitive history without overwhelming success. For about a decade the club struggles with results when playing other local and regional teams. However, in 1917 the club made it to its first Norwegian Cup final, though they lost the match this achievement propelled them into the top ranks of Norwegian football. This same year Brann was able to purchase a parcel of land just south of Bergen, and through contributions from fans and investors was able to build Brann Stadion.
The first trophy
1923 saw the first silverware registered to SK Brann, as they defeated Lyn in the final. This high point was quickly followed in 1925 when Brann once again took the title as champions in the Norwegian Cup. The great highs of winning the cup quickly turned to lows, and for more than twenty years SK Brann waited to join the ranks of top-tier Norwegian football. In 1947 this finally became a reality and nearly found success again in the Norwegian Cup in 1950, making it all the way to final.
In 1961 an official top league was introduced to Norwegian football: Brann finished at the top of the table in both the 1961/1962 and 1962/1963 seasons, the first two seasons the league was around. During the 1963 season, Brann had an average attendance at 15,486, which was the league record until 2003. The success of the 1963 season was followed by a year full of injuries and other tribulations that led to Brann being relegated out of the top division, even though they had been the favorites at the start of the campaign.
Brann were promoted back into the top league in 1967, and Brann won the Cup Championship two times in the 1970s. Once in 1972 defeating Rosenborg and again in 1976 when they met Sogndal. In the two seasons between 1974 and 1976, Brann narrowly missed out on the league title, though the team was attracting an average attendance at each game that was unheard of in Norway at the time.
Ups and downs
At the end of the decade Brann entered what is commonly referred to as their “yo-yo” years. Brann were relegated to the second division in 1979 and finished at the top of that table in 1980, and the team continued to alternate between the 1st and 2nd division until they finally avoided relegation in 1987. This eight-season string was a world record for consecutive relegations-promotions involving a top tier division.
From 1987 onward Brann remained in the top-flight of Norwegian football except for the anomaly of the 2014 season when, amongst mid and upper table finishes, Brann found itself relegated to the second division another time. It was a short jaunt however, as the club finished in second place and found itself back in first division. They marked the occasion by finishing second their first season back.
Bergen has also enjoyed some European football. After a loss in the finals in the 1995 Norwegian Cup final, Brann still qualified for the UEFA Cup Winners Cup the following season. During the tournament Brann had a number of standout moments. The boys in red beat Shelbourne of the Irish Republic in the qualifying round, and continued on to knock out the Belgian cup winners Cercle Brügge, then the Dutch cup winners PSV Eindhoven in the next rounds. In the quarterfinals Brann met Liverpool, who emerged as the stronger team and won 4-1 on aggregate after a closely drawn match in Bergen and devastating win at Anfield.
The title returns to Bergen
At the start of the 2007 season, Brann were among the favourites to take the league title. This time the players were able to cope with the pressure. Strong performances from the first match and throughout the rest of the season earned the club their first title in 44 years. The streets of Bergen ran red with the delight of the clubs players, staff, and of course, their fans.
The next European jaunt for Brann came during this winning 2007 season when they were able to make it out of the group stages of the UEFA Cup with a win and a draw to bring them the points they needed. In the round of 32 they faced down Everton, where they were ultimately defeated in both legs.
As of late SK Brann has seemed to have been in a period of transition. With the shifting of several managers, players, and the relegation in the 2014 season the club didn’t seem to be the dominating force in Norwegian football that they once were. Now however, after a second place finish in 2016 and the increasing level of play at the club, Brann is back and ready to prove a point.
Photo credit: Laurence Horton