Most any football fan who pays attention to the sport in Europe is at least glancingly familiar with Steaua Bucharest. Romania's biggest and most successful club may not be the European power they once were, but they're regular participants in the Champions League and have earned some impressive results in recent years. Thanks to a decision by Romania's Supreme Court, however, they may have to make future appearances with a different name.
On December 3, the Înalta Curte de Casaţie şi Justiţie, Romania's top-level court system, overturned a ruling from 2012 case where the Romanian army sued the Steaua Bucharest over their use and trademark of that club name and their badge.The local court ruled in favor of the club, as did a regional appellate court. The ICCJ, however, sided with the army, meaning that with immediate effect Steaua must cease using any and all such named branding related to the club.
The issue stems from the history of Steaua Bucherest; when the club was founded in 1947, it was known as Army Sports Association Bucharest, a reflection of it being formed by the decree of the then-high commander of the Romanian Royal Army. It was eventually renamed as Army Sports Club Steaua Bucharest, and for a long time served as the official sporting club of Romania's armed forces. That was how the club was known and structured when they won the European Cup (now known as the Champions League) in 1986.
After the Romanian Revolution in 1989, however, the club was separated from the Army Sports Club and became a privately owned entity and was eventually renamed Steaua Bucharest, allowed to continue with its traditional branding with permission of the army. When the club was purchased by local businessman Gigi Becali in 2004, though, the army did not want to allow him to continue using the Steaua name and brand. That eventually lead to the lawsuit that brought us to Wednesday's ICCJ ruling and the questions over what the future of the club holds.
This ruling created immediate issues for the club, as they had a league match at home a few days later, against CSMS Iaşi. Instead of forcing the issue, though, the club has instead poked a sarcastic sort of fun at it; in-stadium displays simply refer to the club as "HOSTS" with an empty box in place of the badge.
This is epic. Scoreboard only displays HOSTS and an empty square instead of Steaua's bagde!!!!! pic.twitter.com/58wLht01BX— Emanuel Roşu (@Emishor) December 7, 2014
The few fans in the stadium are chanting :'Come on, hosts'. Incredible..— Emanuel Roşu (@Emishor) December 7, 2014
Since they can no longer use their badge or branding, they're wearing plain yellow kits instead of their traditional red-and-blue stripes. Other club gear has "Steaua" taped over, leaving just "Bucuresti" (Bucharest in Romanian) visible. Even the lineup cards were left blank where the club name and badge normally are.
This doesn't necessarily mean that we've seen the last of this club carrying the Steaua Bucharest name and colors. If Becali can come to an agreement with army representatives over the use of the name and badge, they'll be able to go back to business as usual. If not, the club will have to be completely re-branded, and will also no longer be able to claim Steaua's celebrated history before Becali bought the team in 2004, losing 21 of their 25 league titles and no longer being able to claim that famous European Cup win over Barcelona. How this plays out from here will be fascinating to watch unfold.