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Allsvenskan Lowdown

The Allsvenskan is not often recognised in Europe despite being the elite division in Sweden, so we decided to outline the format and history of the league, looking at the European history of the teams and notable players to ply their trade in Sweden. 

Format

The Allsvenskan is the top tier of Swedish football and sees 16 sides play each other home and away with the winners qualifying for the Champions League and the second and third-placed teams, along with the Svenska Cupen winners, qualifying for the Europa League. 

Running from late March to early November, the two lowest-placed sides are relegated to the Superettan with the third-lowest placed team competing in a relegation/promotion play-off against the third-placed team in the Superettan. 

League history

Formed in 1924, the Swedish top-flight originally took place over two years but since 1959 has taken place in one calendar year.

A play-off system was introduced in 1982, with this period seeing Malmo win five successive league titles but only two championships. 

The 1990 season saw three points for a win introduced, a system that still remains, and the following year saw the ill-fated Mästerskapsserien, a tournament between the top six Allsvenskan sides. 

Since 2008, the league has been played with the current format. 

Until 1974 foreign players were not allowed to compete in Allsvenskan when Englishman Ronald Powell became the first for Brynäs IF. His son Magnus enjoyed a successful career in Scandanavia, winning the Allsvenskan and Svenska Cup with Helsinborg before finishing runner up in Norway’s Eliteserien with Lillestrom, whom he captained. Tunisian Melke Amri becoming the first non-European player in 1977.

Champions

The most successful side are Malmo with 21 championships having claimed the title in 1943/44, while they are the current reigning champions. 

Gothenburg have won the league 18 times but not since 2007, with IFK Norrköping claiming the championship on 13 occasions. 

Along with Gothenburg and Malmo, AIK are considered to be one of the largest clubs in Sweden and they have claimed 12 titles.

Gothenburg is the most successful city with Örgryte IS (12), GAIS (4) and Göteborgs IF (1) also claiming titles. 

The most recent new champion was Kalmar FF who triumphed in 2008 for their only league title.

Player and manager records 

Sven Andersson holds the record for the most appearances in Allsvenskan with 431 for Örgryte IS and Helsingborgs IF, winning the Swedish championship in 1985 with Örgryte IS.

The all-time goalscorer in Allsvenskan history is Sven Jonasson who netted 254 times in 410 games for Elfsborg between 1927 and 1946, while his run of 322 consecutive Allsvenskan appearances is also a league record.

European Qualification

Malmo remain the only Swedish side to reach the European Cup final after they lost to Nottingham Forest in the 1978/79 showpiece. 

Gothenburg won the Uefa Cup in 1981/82 and 1986/87, beating Hamburg and Dundee United respectively. 

The two sides have also competed in the Champions League group stages on multiple occasions with Malmo also qualifying for the Europa League group stage three times. 

Helsingborgs and AIK have also competed in both European competitions while Elfsborg, Halmstads and Ostersunds have taken part in the Europa League group stage. 

Notable players

Many players over the years have successfully made the transition from the Allsvenskan to Europe and one of these was Henrik Larsson. He started his career at Hogaborgs and also played for Helsingborgs before a move to Feyenoord, but he is most known for his time at Celtic. The striker became a fan favourite at Parkhead where he scored 242 goals in 315 matches including both goals in a 3-2 defeat against Porto in the 2003 Uefa Cup final. His best campaign came in 2000/01 where he plundered 53 goals, winning the European Golden Shoe. He then left for Barcelona where he claimed two league titles and the Champions League. 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the most high-profile Swedish player currently playing and after starting out at local side Malmo, moved to Ajax in 2001, beginning a career that has seen him regarded as one of the world’s best ever strikers. His time in Italy started at Juventus before a move to Inter Milan saw him finish as top-scorer in the 2008/09 and win three consecutive Serie A titles. After winning league titles with Barcelona and AC Milan, he played for Paris Saint-Germain and LA Galaxy before returning to the Rossoneri

Gunnar Gren is known overseas for his career at the San Siro as part of the fearsome front three alongside countrymen Gunnar Nordhal and Nils Liedholm, known as Gre-No-Li. Playing over 100 matches for Milan, he claimed the Serie A title in the 1950/51 season. The attacking midfielder began his career at Garda BK and made more than 150 appearances for IFK Gothenburg before moving to Italy. After his time at Milan, Gren turned out for Fiorentina and Genoa before finishing with brief spells back in Sweden with Örgryte IS, GAIS and IK Oddevold.

The next in the famous trio, Gunnar Nordhal, is AC Milan’s all-time goalscorer with 224 strikes for the Rossoneri and the third highest Serie A goalscorer of all time behind Silvio Piola and Francesco Totti. He started out at Hörnefors IF before moves to Degerfors IF and IFK Norrköping, where he once scored seven goals in a single match. 

The final Gre-No-Li member, Nils Liedholm, began in 1938 with local side Valdemarsviks IF before moves to IK Sleipner and IFK Norrköping, where during his time with the latter he earned 18 caps for the national team winning a gold medal at the 1948 Olympics. This form earned him a move to AC Milan where he played over 350 matches, winning three Serie A titles. Following his playing career, he moved into management with the Rossoneri in 1961, and a later move to Roma saw him guide them to one league title, three Coppa Italia wins and the European Cup Final where they lost to Liverpool on penalties in 1984. 

I am a freelance journalist for the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA), International Wheelchair and Amputee Federation (IWAS) and Why Can’t We specialising in para sport. Writing for It’s All Sport To Me, this will be my focus as I feel it is an area that deserves more coverage in the wider mainstream media. Since an early age I have been interested in para sport due to having cerebral Palsy but being at the London 2012 Games was when I knew I really wanted to work in the industry. Being a Watford supporter, mainstream sport is also a passion of mine and I will be writing weekly about La Liga and Ligue 1.

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