|13 June 1912
|17 July 1941
(as Independent State of Croatia)
3 July 1992
|16 June 1993
The Croatian Football Federation (Croatian: Hrvatski nogometni savez, HNS) is the national governing body of football in Croatia. It was originally formed in 1912 and is based in the capital city of Zagreb. The organisation is a member of both FIFA and UEFA, and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the game of football in Croatia. The current president of HNS is Marijan Kustić.
The HNS sanctions all competitive football matches in Croatia, beginning with the HNL on down to 3. NL, as well as the Croatian Cup, while low-tiered leagues are sanctioned by inter-county and county associations. It is also responsible for appointing the management of the men's, women's and youth national football teams. As of 2009, the HNS had 118,316 registered players (650 of them professionals) and a total of 1,732 registered association football and futsal clubs.
See also: Football in Croatia
The organisation traces its roots to the Croatian Sports Federation (Hrvatski športski savez), which was founded on 8 October 1909 in Zagreb, at the time when Croatia was part of Austria-Hungary. The federation organised all sports in the country and its first president was Hinko Würth, the chairman of HAŠK football club. Present-day HNS considers its foundation date to be 13 June 1912, when the football section of the Croatian Sports Federation was established, and its head, Milovan Zoričić, as its first president.
After World War I and the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, representatives from Građanski, HAŠK, Hajduk Split and Concordia football clubs met in Zagreb on 14 April 1919 and founded the Football Association of Yugoslavia (Jugoslavenski nogometni savez), as a successor of the Croatian Sports Federation's football section, and appointed Hinko Würth as its president. The organization then became the chief governing body of football in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and launched the Yugoslav First League, the first country-wide national competition held initially in a cup format. Five other regional sub-federations were also created (based in Belgrade, Ljubljana, Sarajevo, Split and Subotica), each organizing their own regional tournament with winners qualifying for the national championship.
In 1929, following disagreements between the Zagreb and Belgrade sub-federations, the Football Association of Yugoslavia was dissolved. It was then re-established in May 1930 in Belgrade, this time with the Serbian-language name Fudbalski savez Jugoslavije. The Belgrade-based association then continued organizing the national league until 1939, when the Banovina of Croatia was created as an administrative region within Kingdom of Yugoslavia. On 6 August 1939 the Croatian Football Federation (Hrvatski nogometni savez or HNS) was established as a football governing body in the newly created province, and Croatian and Slovenian clubs soon began leaving the Yugoslav League to join the HNS-run Croatian-Slovenian Football League in protest of the alleged centralization of sports around Belgrade. The split was eventually rectified with the promise of an increase in the number of Croatian and Slovenian clubs in the league, and because of this a shortened ten-round league was played in the 1939–40 Yugoslav First League season. In 1940 HNS also played a part in organizing the first ever Croatia national football team matches which played four international friendlies between April and December 1940. However the federation was not yet recognized by FIFA as Croatia was at the time still a province of Yugoslavia.
In April 1941 Kingdom of Yugoslavia was invaded by Axis Powers and was effectively dissolved. However, the Croatian Football Federation continued to run a competition called the Croatian national football league in the territory of Independent State of Croatia (NDH), a fascist puppet state which enjoyed relative peace during World War II, and which included most of present-day countries of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 17 July 1941 HNS was admitted to FIFA as the top level federation of NDH, and the national team representing NDH played fourteen international matches in the period from 1941 to 1944.
Following the end of World War II, Croatia became a part of SFR Yugoslavia and the Belgrade-based Football Association of Yugoslavia took over as the main football-governing body in the country. Also, the new communist government issued a decree in 1945 which effectively dissolved all football clubs which were active during the war as a form of punishment for their participation in the fascist-run football championship. Among others, Zagreb-based powerhouses Concordia, HAŠK and Građanski all ceased to exist, their property was nationalised, and several other clubs, most notably Dinamo Zagreb, were formed to take their place. On the other hand, Hajduk Split was spared as their players had escaped from their Italian-occupied home city of Split during World War II and joined Yugoslav Partisans in 1944. For this reason, Hajduk Split is the only major Croatian club which can claim continuity since its foundation in 1911.
In the period from 1945 to 1990 the Belgrade-based Yugoslav Football Federation was in charge of football in the entire country, while Zagreb was turned into its major regional hub and administrative branch. In this period Croatian clubs competed within the Yugoslav league system and Croatian players were eligible for the Yugoslavia national football team. In the following decades Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split became two of the Yugoslav Big Four (along with Belgrade-based Partizan and Red Star), a quartet of clubs which significantly dominated football in communist Yugoslavia. Dinamo and Hajduk won a combined total of 11 Yugoslav First League titles and 16 Yugoslav Cup. In addition, Croatian club Rijeka won 2 Yugoslav Cup titles. Dinamo Zagreb also won the 1966–67 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, which made them the first Yugoslav side to win a continental competition, and were the only Yugoslav club with European silverware until Red Star's 1990–91 European Cup win 24 years later.
When the breakup of Yugoslavia began to unfold in the early 1990s, the political situation was reflected on football pitches. On 13 May 1990 an infamous riot occurred at Maksimir in Zagreb and interrupted the Dinamo Zagreb – Red Star league fixture. On 3 June 1990 the pre-scheduled Yugoslavia–Netherlands friendly was held at the same stadium, and some 20,000 Croatian fans booed the Yugoslav national anthem and cheered for the Dutch team instead. On 26 September 1990 Hajduk Split fans staged a violent pitch invasion at Poljud during a league fixture against Partizan. On 17 October 1990 the first match of the newly established Croatia national football team was held, a friendly against the United States, and following the end of the 1990–91 season Croatian clubs decided to abandon Yugoslav competitions.
After Croatia had officially declared independence on 8 October 1991, the Croatian Football Federation sought international recognition, and was finally re-admitted to FIFA on 3 July 1992 and to UEFA on 17 June 1993.
In February 1992 the inaugural season of the Croatian top league Prva HNL kicked off, and in March 1992 the first edition of the Croatian Cup was launched.
In late 2010, the Federation held an election for its President, with Vlatko Marković opposed by Igor Štimac. Marković won by a single vote, and the assembly was marred with controversies. Štimac later appealed, calling for another meeting of the Federation. His supporters organized a new assembly and elected him the new President despite the opposing faction's boycott, leading to an impasse.
In July 2012, the Federation held an election for its President, with Davor Šuker as the only candidate. All 46 delegates voted in favour of Suker's candidature.
See also: Croatian football league system
It organizes the following competitions:
The Croatian Football Federation also organises national football teams representing Croatia at all age levels: