FC Santa Claus
|Full name||Football Club of Santa Claus Arctic Circle|
|Founded||1992 (as FC Santa Claus Rovaniemi) |
2012 (re-founded as FC Santa Claus AC)
|Ground||Keskuskenttä/Susivouti, Rovaniemi, Finland|
|Capacity||4,000 (2,800 covered)|
|2019||Nelonen (V), 11th (relegated)|
FC Santa Claus AC is a football club from Rovaniemi, Finland. The club has played as high as the third tier Kakkonen, where they have played a total of 14 seasons. They were nearly promoted to the second-tier Ykkönen but lost their promotion playoff match to HIFK in 2010. The club plays at the Keskuskenttä Stadium, which seats 4,000 spectators, of which 2,800 are covered, which they share with Rovaniemen Palloseura (RoPS), who played in the top tier Veikkausliiga, until their relegation at the end of the 2020 season.
The club was formed as FC Santa Claus Rovaniemi in 1992, through the merger of Rovaniemen Reipas and Rovaniemen Lappi. Following a bankruptcy filing in 2012, the club was re-formed as a new entity under the name FC Santa Claus Arctic Circle.
Origin of name
The origin of the name stems from the legend that Rovaniemi, Finland, is the home town of Santa Claus. They chose to use the English name of Santa Claus, as opposed to the Finnish translation Joulupukki, since English is the most commonly spoken language in the world, allowing for increased awareness of the club. The club receives regular coverage from media outlets around the world, especially during the Christmas season.
Despite playing in the lower divisions, the club has fans around the world due to the unique circumstances of their name. FC Santa Claus developed a legend about how the club was formed that claimed that the club was founded by Santa's elves kicking a leather football in the snow, when they were not wrapping Christmas presents. The club states that they had to ask permission from Santa to use his name, which was granted after Tarho Iljin, the club's founder, made the request. In addition, Santa Claus serves as their honorary coach and he attends the team's first match of every season to launch their campaign and often shows up at games during the season as well.
The club's colours are red and white, the colours of Santa Claus, with their alternate kits being white and green, another Christmas themed colour. Their motto is "Don't Stop Believing", referring to the belief of children in the legendary figure. The club is heavily involved with multiple charities, including UNICEF, donating proceeds from their jersey sales to the charity.
The players of the club are mostly made up of local students or workers, who are often involved with the local Christmas market and helping out at the local post office, which receives all of the Finnish letters to Santa, although they have had professional and foreign players in the past. The current manager, German-native Ralf Wunderlich, described FC Santa Claus as the second team of the city of Rovaniemi, with Rovaniemen Palloseura (RoPS) being the more successful and competitive club, but supporting "the spirit of Christmas".
The club was formed in 1992, under the name FC Santa Claus Rovaniemi, following the merger of the Rovaniemen Reipas (RoRe) and Rovaniemen Lappi (RoLa) football clubs. They played their first official match in 1993. RoRe was the more successful of the two founder clubs, playing 12 seasons in the Kakkonen, the third tier of the Finnish football system in the periods of 1978–81, 1984–89, and 1991–92, while RoLa played three seasons at this level in 1987–88 and 1992. The merger consolidated FC Santa Claus as a Kakkonen club, since both founding clubs were in that division.
In their first season, the club finished in 3rd place in the third tier. The following season, in 1994, they won the Midnattsolscupen (Midnight Sun Cup), an invitational tournament held in Sweden. In 1997, they faced English Premier League club Crystal Palace in a friendly, losing 5–0, with 5000 spectators showing up to the match. They have also played against West Ham United.
After eight seasons in the third tier, they were relegated to the fourth tier Kolmonen, at the end of the 2000 season. They won their Kolmonen division in their first season, but failed to win promotion back to the third tier. They gained promotion back to the Kakkonen after winning their Kolmonen division, and qualifying through the promotion playoffs group, in 2008.
Bankruptcy and re-formation
In 2012, the club experienced significant financial difficulties, resulting in them filing for bankruptcy with debts of 20,000€. They re-formed the club under a new association, under the name FC Santa Claus Arctic Circle, but the Finnish Football Association denied their request to transfer their position in the third tier Kakkonen to the new group, ruling that they had not taken over the debts of the previous group. The club appealed on the basis that they were willing to take on debts incurred by the sports department, not the bingo activities that had caused the bankruptcy, but their appeal was rejected.
Consequently, FC Santa Claus returned the fourth tier for 2013, after being unable to re-join the third tier. They finished in third place in 2013, but the following season they won the division, being promoted back to the third tier for the 2015 season.
They again faced financial difficulties in 2015, but they were saved through signing one-year partnerships with EA Sports and Puma, with Puma manufacturing the jerseys with EA as the kit sponsor. Prior to this they has worn Adidas kits. Nike became their manufacturer the following season. For 2016, they partnered with Chinese company Bewin Sports and their CEO Marc Gao, who entered into a five-year shirt sponsorship with the club as well as Gao becoming the club's vice-president.
The 2016 season was a difficult one for the club, who, following the departure of several experienced players, were relegated back to the fourth tier after the season, after earning only eight points from two wins and two draws in 22 matches, conceding 102 goals, including a 16-0 loss to AC Kajaani in which they were only able to field 11 players in total, including three goalkeepers, two of whom were forced to play striker, due to a rash of injuries. Later that year, they travelled to Beijing, China, arranged by their new Chinese sponsors, to play a friendly match on Christmas Eve against a group of Chinese celebrities called the China Doubi all-stars, and won the match by a single goal. The following year, they returned to China for another exhibition, where they played with former Italian national team player Alessandro Del Piero and former English national team player Michael Owen.
FC Santa Claus finished in last place in the Kolmonen in 2018, being relegated to the fifth tier Nelonen for 2019. In 2019, they again finished last, being relegated to the sixth tier for 2020. However, they decided not to register the club in the Finnish pyramid in 2020, and instead featured in a local, recreational 8-a-side league. They announced they would re-launch a full men's team, in the Finnish national system, for the 2021 season. They will enter in the sixth tier Vitonen.
The following includes the historical season results for FC Santa Claus:
As FC Santa Claus Rovaniemi:
|1993||Tier 3||Kakkonen||Northern Group||3rd (12)||10–6–6||Fifth Round|
|1994||Tier 3||Northern Group||7th (12)||8–4–10||Quarter-Finals|
|1995||Tier 3||Northern Group||6th (12)||9–3–10||Sixth Round|
|1996||Tier 3||Northern Group||9th (12)||6–5–11||Fifth Round|
|1997||Tier 3||Northern Group||7th(12)||8–4–10||Fifth Round|
|1998||Tier 3||Northern Group||7th (12)||9–4–9||Fifth Round|
|1999||Tier 3||Northern Group||10th (12)||7–2–13||Relegation Play-offs||Did not enter|
|2000||Tier 3||Northern Group||8th (12)||7–5–10||Relegated|
|2001||Tier 4||Kolmonen||Northern Finland – Lapland||1st (8)||11–0–3||Play-offs||Did not enter|
|2002||Tier 4||Northern Finland – Lapland – Group 2||2nd (6)||7–0–3|
|2003||Tier 4||Group C||4th (7)||7–1–4|
|2004||Tier 4||Lapland||2nd (8)||9–3–2|
|2005||Tier 4||Northern Finland||5th (10)||9–3–6|
|2006||Tier 4||Northern Finland||5th (12)||11–1–10|
|2007||Tier 4||Northern Finland||3rd (11)||11–5–4|
|2008||Tier 4||Northern Finland||1st (11)||15–3–2||Play-offs – Promoted||Fourth Round|
|2009||Tier 3||Kakkonen||Group C||10th (14)||9–2–15||Fifth Round|
|2010||Tier 3||Group C||1st (14)||16–3–7||Play-offs, runner-up||Third Round|
|2011||Tier 3||Group C||11th (14)||8–8–10||Fifth Round|
|2012||Tier 3||Northern Group||8th (9)||6–6–12||Relegated (due to bankruptcy)||Fifth Round|
As FC Santa Claus AC:
|2013||Tier 4||Kolmonen||Northern Finland||3rd (12)||15–2–5||Third Round|
|2014||Tier 4||Northern Finland||1st (11)||16–2–2||Promoted||Did not enter|
|2015||Tier 3||Kakkonen||Northern Group||7th (10)||12–2–13||Did not enter|
|2016||Tier 3||Northern Group||11th (12)||2–2–18||Relegated|
|2017||Tier 4||Kolmonen||Northern Finland||2nd (11)||15–3–2||Third Round|
|2018||Tier 4||Northern Finland||11th (11)||2–2–16||Relegated||Did not enter|
|2019||Tier 5||Nelonen||Northern Finland||11th (11)||3–3–14||Relegated||Did not enter|
|2020||Club did not enter a competitive division this season|
|2021||Tier 6||Vitonen||Northern Finland||TBD||TBD|
Notable former players
In 2014, the club established a reserve team under the name FC Santa, which began play in the fifth tier Nelonen. In 2015, the club won the fifth tier, being promoted to the fourth tier Kolmonen for 2016. They were immediately relegated back to the fifth tier for 2017, where they once again won the division and promotion. However, they ended the operation of the second team after 2017, as the reserves reached the same level as the senior team.
The following includes the historical season results for FC Santa:
|2014||Tier 5||Nelonen||Northern Finland - Lapland||5th (8)||5–5–4|
|2015||Tier 5||Northern Finland - Lapland||1st (8)||11–2–1||Promoted|
|2016||Tier 4||Kolmonen||Northern Finland||11th (12)||6–0–12||Relegated|
|2017||Tier 5||Nelonen||Northern Finland - North Group||1st (5)||9–2–1||Promoted|
|2018||Reserves stopped operating|
- Kakkonen (III) Division Title - 2010
- Kolmonen (IV) Division Title - 2001, 2008, 2014
- Midnattsolscupen Cup - 1994
- Nelonen (V) Division Title - 2015, 2017
FC Santa Claus AC formed a women's team in 2016. They began play in the Naisten Kolmonen, the women's fourth tier. They finished in 7th place in their division in 2016 and 5th place in 2017. They did not play in 2018.
FC Santa Claus Juniorit was formed in 1994. They operate youth teams at every age group.
Every summer, they host the Santa Claus Cup which attracts teams from several countries, for both boys and girls teams.
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- Waratorn, Methaphan (25 December 2020). "'FC Santa Claus', the white-bearded football team in the year of the plague". The Standard (in Thai). Retrieved 22 January 2021.
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- "Football team FC Santa Claus play in the snow". BBC. 18 December 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- Davis, Matt (19 December 2020). "FC Santa Claus manager on running a football club in Lapland: 'I've never been so happy in my life'". BBC Sport. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
- Piehler, Moritz (23 December 2020). "Finnischer Weihnachtsverein: Deutscher coacht den FC Santa Claus" [Finnish Christmas Club: German coaches FC Santa Claus]. Yahoo! (in German). Retrieved 22 January 2021.
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- "FC Santa Claus Brings Good Cheer". SINA English. 20 December 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- "FC Santa Claus: The most festive football team in the world". Fifa World Football Museum. 6 December 2020. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
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- "Football Archive - Index of SPL Finnish League Suomen Cup Seasons". Finland Football. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- Flanagan, Chris (21 December 2017). "Inside FC Santa Claus: Lapland's favourite football team – who are finally getting serious". Yahoo!. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- Dice, Sebastian (24 December 2016). "En la Ciudad de Rovaniemen, al Norte, Con 60.000 Habitantes Papá Noel tiene cuadro: el FC Santa Claus de Finlandia" [In the city of Rovaniemen, to the North, with 60,000 People Santa Claus has a squad: FC Santa Claus from Finland]. La República (in Spanish). Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- "Why FC Santa Claus are flying high". FourFourTwo. 23 December 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
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- "FC Santa Claus haettiin konkurssiin" [FC Santa Claus has filed for bankruptcy]. Lapin Kansa (in Finnish). 22 September 2012. Archived from the original on 7 October 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- "Santa Claus aikoo valittaa Palloliiton päätöksestä" [Santa Claus intends to appeal the decision of the Football Association]. Kymppipaikka (in Finnish). 18 December 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
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- Fleenor, David (17 November 2014). "FC Santa Claus Jersey Headed to Chimneys in America". Soccer 365. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- Bailleul, Alexandre (24 December 2014). "Puma signe avec l'équipe du Père Noël, le FC Santa Claus" [Puma signs with Santa's team, FC Santa Claus]. Sportbuzz Business (in French). Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- Fleenor, David (13 November 2015). "Santa teams up with Nike". Soccer 365. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- Pajari, Katriina; Kero, Sami (18 September 2016). "Sanotaan, että suomalaiset eivät osaa markkinoida itseään, mutta on toisenlaisiakin tarinoita. Rovaniemeläinen jalkapallojoukkue FC Santa Claus ryhtyi myymään itseään joulupukin omana joukkueena" [It is said that Finns do not know how to market themselves, but there are other stories. The Rovaniemi football team FC Santa Claus started selling himself as Santa's own team.]. Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- Wright, Chris (26 September 2016). "FC Santa Claus Suffer Rough Week in Finnish Third Division, Forced to play Three Goalkeepers at Once". Who Ate All the Pies. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- Zeng, Yunheng (26 December 2016). "Finnish Santa Claus football team wins Christmas Eve match in China". NBD Press. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- Fleenor, David (20 December 2016). "Santa Claus Prepares for Magical Night in Beijing". Soccer 365. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- "FC Santa Claus lighting up Lapland". FIFA. 24 December 2020. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- "FC Santa Claus: echipa unde Moș Crăciun e prezent tot timpul anului și fanii din toată lumea vin să-l vadă" [FC Santa Claus: the team where Santa Claus is present all year round and fans from all over the world come to see him]. Digi Sport (in Romanian). 22 December 2020. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- "Uusi miesten edustusjoukkue alkaa helmikuussa" [The new men’s representative team will begin in February]. FC Santa Claus Juniorit (in Finnish). 18 January 2021. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
- "Miesten Edustusjoukkue" [Men's Representative Team]. FC Santa Claus Juniorit (in Finnish). Archived from the original on 24 January 2021.|accessdate=24 January 2021
- "Pohjoinen Jalkapallo 2021 ilmoittautuneet joukkueet" [Northern Football 2021 enrolled teams]. Pallolitto. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
- "El equipo de Papá Noel: FC Santa Claus" [Santa's team: FC Santa Claus]. Goal (in Spanish). 24 December 2017. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- "FC Santa Claus AC Naiset" [FC Santa Claus AC Women]. FC Santa Claus AC. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- "FC Santa Claus Napapiiri ry". FC Santa Claus Juniorit (in French). Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- "FDS-WBA -toiminta" [FDS-WBA Operation]. FC Santa Claus Juniorit (in Finnish). Retrieved 22 January 2021.