FC Sheriff name and owner history: How the Moldovan club and Man United’s Europa League opponents got their badge and brand


FC Sheriff Tiraspol, often referred to simply as FC Sheriff or simply Sheriff, is only 25 years old. Yet they turned into the best club in Moldova and sometimes appeared in the European game as a pest for Europe’s great powers.

Most notably, the club topped Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the 2021/22 group stage, which grabbed global headlines. This year they are drawn into a Europa League group with Manchester United and Real Sociedad.

So how did a club with so little history reach such heights so quickly? The inner workings of FC Sheriff are a jungle of corporate wealth and geopolitical maneuvering.

sports news brings you everything you need to know about FC Sheriff Tiraspol and how they quickly became a force to be reckoned with on the European stage.

MORE: Manchester United take on FC Sheriff in Europa League group stage

Who are FC Sheriff Tiraspol?

Founded in 1997 as Tiras Tiraspol, FC Sheriff quickly changed its name the following year. The club, nicknamed “the Wasps”, won its first trophy in its first year of existence, at the top of the Moldovan second tier. They won their first major trophy a season later, winning the Moldovan Cup, the country’s domestic cup competition.

They would go on to win their first domestic league title in 2000/01 in their fourth year of existence. They have since won 20 of the last 22 Moldovan Super Liga domestic titles, claiming last year’s title by a six-point margin while holding a +42 goal differential. An article from The Athletic published in late August said:

“If the Divizia Nationala were a breed, Sheriff would be the thoroughbred racehorse, while the others are asthmatic pigs.”

While this kind of immediate success may be common in the United States where single-entity league ownership distributes player wealth and talent to create parity, the traditional European soccer model does not lend itself to an ascent. so dazzling when creating a club.

Why, then, is FC Sheriff so utterly dominant? One word: money. In a relatively poor country, FC Sheriff is king.

Geopolitical situation of Moldova, Tiraspol and Transnistria

It is impossible to truly understand the fabric of FC Sheriff and its ownership without also understanding the current position of Tiraspol in the country of Moldova.

While UEFA and other international governing bodies like the UN officially recognize the city of Tiraspol – and therefore its clubs – as part of the country of Moldova, many within the city walls recognize it as the capital of Trans-Dniester, or Transnistria.

Transnistria is an unrecognized breakaway state consisting of a thin strip of land along the Dniester River on the Moldovan-Ukrainian border. Having declared its independence in 1991 following the fall of the Soviet Union, it largely governed itself separately from the Moldovan capital of Chisinau, with which a ceasefire was signed in 1992. In July 2005, the Moldovan government passed a law establishing part of Transnistria as an autonomous territorial unit within the nation. However, there are unresolved border issues between Moldova and Transnistria, mostly centered around a strip of villages along its southwestern edge.

With all of this in mind, there are many differences between the culture of FC Sheriff and that of the rest of the Moldovan league. The most widely spoken language in Transnistria is Russian, not Moldovan, and there is a Russian hammer and sickle on the nation’s flag. There’s a statue of Vladimir Lenin on the steps of Tiraspol’s parliament building, and there’s a massive Soviet-era arms depot in the eastern border village of Cobasna that some believe is the largest ammunition depot from Eastern Europe.

Additionally, and most eye-catching, the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office mentions in its European travel guide that the British consulate in the Moldovan capital has no reach in Transistria.

Where does FC Sheriff get its name from?

FC Sheriff is owned by – you guessed it – a Moldovan company called Sheriff Holding Company, or simply Sheriff. The company owns a chain of gas stations, supermarkets, media, construction companies, car dealerships, a mobile phone network and even a wine and cognac factory.

Founded in 1993 by former KGB officer Viktor Gushan, the company took advantage of the lack of government control over the unrecognized state of Transnistria to build an unregulated monopoly. As a result, Gushan is worth around $2 billion. Gushan is said to have named the company after his KGB nickname.

The sheriff “effectively controls the country economically and politically”, according to Eastern European geopolitical expert Sabine von Lowis in 2021.

The club built a $200 million stadium – Sheriff Stadium, of course – which opened in 2002 with a capacity of just over 12,500. It has a five-star luxury hotel, on-site residences for players, five training grounds and an indoor bubble for the winter.

FC Sheriff Tiraspol in European football

Thanks to their rise to the top of the Moldovan league, FC Sheriff have become a regular player in European football. As consistent league champions, they qualify for the early rounds of the Champions League, where they drop to the Europa League after qualifying round defeats, or occasionally reach the Champions League group stage.

The pinnacle of FC Sheriff was their shocking 2-1 win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the 2021 group stage. The win announced FC Sheriff to the world and gave the club recognition across the globe. They have also beaten other recognizable clubs such as Shakhtar Donetsk, Dynamo Kyiv, Lokomotiv Moscow, Red Star Belgrade, Dinamo Zagreb and Braga in their European escapades.

For the 2022/23 season, after being knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers by Armenian club Pyunik, they enter the Europa League group stage, drawn into Group E alongside Manchester United, Real Sociedad and Omonia.

However, thanks to a decision by UEFA, Sheriff cannot play his home games this year at Sheriff Stadium, but is forced to play them at Zimbru Stadium in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau. UEFA decided that no European matches could be played in Transnistria due to the state’s proximity to Ukraine and the ongoing war with Russia.

Trophies won by FC Sheriff Tiraspol

FC Sheriff have won 20 league titles since the club was founded 25 years ago, having only won the league twice since 2000.

They have also won 11 Moldovan Cup titles, including four of the last seven.


Moldovan National Division: 2000/01, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2009/10, 20011/12, 2012/13, 2013/ 14, 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020/21, 2021/22.
Moldova Cup: 1998/99, 2000/01, 2001/02, 2005/06, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2014/15, 2016/17, 2018/19, 2021/22.
Moldovan Supercup: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2013, 2015, 2016
Moldovan “A” Division (2nd level): 1997/98


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