Historical chart of Sturm Graz league performance
SK Sturm Graz was founded in 1909 as a workers team, as opposed to its neighbours Grazer AK, founded in 1902. Between 1921 and 1949, the team enjoyed considerable success in winning the regional Styrian championship 11 times.
The Anschluss in 1938 made Austria part of the German Third Reich and Austrian clubs became part of German football competition. Sturm played in the opening round of the 1940 Tschammerpokal, predecessor to the modern-day DFB-Pokal. They then qualified to play in the Gauliga Ostmark, one of Germany's top-flight regional leagues, in 1941. The team withdrew part way through the 1941–42 season and was relegated after an 11th-place result in the following campaign.
In 1949, Sturm entered the Austrian national league as the first non-Vienna-based team.
1981: First success
The first great success came under manager Otto Barić, when the club finished runners-up in the league in the 1980–81 season. In 1983–84, the club battled through to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup, beaten only by Nottingham Forest through a penalty in extra-time.
1992: Start of a new era
In December 1992,
Hannes Kartnig was installed as president, naming his close friend Heinz Schilcher as new manager. At the time, Sturm was languishing under enormous debts. Sturm qualified for the newly formed
Zehnerliga, and Kartnig and Schilcher decided the best course of action would be to abstain from big-name signings, opting instead for a new start using young players from the club's youth setup. In 1993,
Milan Djuricic became manager.
1994 to 2002: Osim and European football
In 1994, the Bosnian Ivica Osim took control of the up-to-now unsuccessful Sturm; this proved to be a crucial turning-point in the club's history. Osim succeeded in producing an effective and powerful team using the young and inexperienced players at his disposal, strengthened with a few experienced leading players. The team's first success was as runners-up in the league in 1995. One year later, they won their first title, beating Admira Wacker in the cup final, but wobbling in the league to finish runners-up yet again.
In 1998, Sturm won its first Austrian Bundesliga title, pulling away from the field early on and winning the title with seven games in hand. Sturm set two records during this season; they remained unbeaten in their first 12 matches, and then for another 19 matches later in the season. At the end of the season, they amassed 81 points, an Austrian record total, winning the title with 19 points ahead of Rapid Wien. This season also saw the development of the "magic triangle" of Mario Haas, Hannes Reinmayr and Ivica Vastić.
The year 1999 saw Sturm Graz retain the title, securing the treble as they did so (league, cup and super cup), in addition to appearing in the qualification for the UEFA Champions League. Here, however, a scoreless draw with Spartak Moscow proved to be the team's only success. The 1999–2000 season saw Sturm in the Champions League for a second time, finishing third in its group. FC Tirol wrested the domestic title from Sturm's grasp, but the runners-up spot achieved was sufficient for a third trip into the following season's Champions League.
Sensationally, Sturm Graz won its Champions League Group D (against , Rangers and Monaco), reaching the second round for the first time. The league campaign was less successful – a fourth-place finish, the worst under Osim.
After the Champions League exploits, several key players out of the 12 who later left were not suitably replaced. Worse still, this hasty squad redevelopment devoured almost all the profit made from the European campaign. Only a small fraction of the money was invested in youth development to establish an academy. Despite this, the newly assembled team again finished in second place in the league, but failed at the qualification hurdle for the Champions League. This, together with increasing criticism from the club president, precipitated the departure of Osim after eight years at the helm.
2002 to 2009: Consolidation
Sturm Graz, 2010 cup winners
Franco Foda and Gilbert Gress (seven defeats in nine games) both enjoyed short and fruitless stints as coach, before former sweeper took control in autumn 2003. He presided over a gradual introduction of young talent, securing the team's place in the top flight in both 2004 and 2005, finishing in seventh position.
Since 2005, Sturm has been facing financial problems and, on 1 September 2006, a petition of bankruptcy was filed by the tax authorities. Because of the financial situation, Sturm was forced to use young players who were soon sold to reconsole the club. Also in 2006, coach Michael Petrović left the club and was replaced by Franco Foda.
2009 to present day: New successes
After a fourth-place finish in 2009, the Blackies qualified for the group stage of the UEFA Europe League in 2009–10. Their opponents were Galatasaray, Panathinaikos and Dinamo București. In 2010, the Blackies won the ÖFB-Cup in Klagenfurt in front of 25,000 of its own fans against Wiener Neustadt. That was the highest number of fans ever travelling to a match in a different state.
In 2010–11, Sturm won the Austrian championship. A highlight of the season was a qualifying match against Juventus in the UEFA Europa League.
In 2011–12, Sturm played in the UEFA Champions League qualification rounds and managed to defeat Hungarian club Videoton and Zestafoni of Georgia. In the play-off, however, Sturm Graz lost against BATE Borisov, thus ensuring qualification to the group stages of the Europe League, where they were grouped with Anderlecht, Lokomotiv Moscow and AEK Athens. At the end of the season, Sturm finished fifth in the Bundesliga and head coach Franco Foda was fired after six years. With his replacement Peter Hyballa, Sturm played strong during the autumn months, but a poor spring resulted in Hyballa's dismissal before the end of the season. Luckily, Sturm managed to fourth in the final league table, albeit with the lowest amount of points ever sufficed for fourth place. This ensured Europa League qualification for the subsequent year. Darko Milanič, who won several titles with Maribor in Slovenia, took the reins of the club for the 2013–14 campaign.