LASK plays in the Austrian Football Bundesliga, the top level of Soccer in Austria. The team is based in Linz, the capital of Upper Austria. In the 1960s, LASK became the first non-Vienna team to win the country's biggest soccer championship.

An impressive feat, no doubt, however, the team has had a rougher go of it in the decades since then. Recently, things had been looking up for LASK. But now the club is in the midst of an exceptionally unique COVID-19 controversy.

Bumped from first place without playing a game

The Austrian Football Bundesliga, as you might expect, suspended play with the outbreak of COVID-19.

In theory, it should start up again in the coming weeks. But there are still safety rules in place.

Yahoo reports that LASK was found to have violated social distancing rules. The team had begun practicing with members in close contact with each other before it was supposed to. This is not only a safety hazard but would likely give the club an unfair advantage.

LASK was given a fine. NBC indicates it comes out to the rough equivalent of $83,000. But probably more importantly, LASK was docked six points in the Bundesliga standings. Enough to knock the team out of first place, where it was when play was halted.

LASK's explanation hasn't seemed to work like they hoped it would. Apparently claiming, bizarrely, that they were simply exercising and not doing physical activities that could constitute practicing soccer.

Whether or not that makes sense to anybody, in any event, LASK was still violating the social distancing policy.

An appeals process is likely forthcoming. But that's not the only issue brewing. The revelations about LASK came via video footage of the team illegally practicing. But the footage may well have also been obtained underhandedly.

Two figures apparently trespassed on the grounds of LASK's arena. They allegedly illegally installed cameras in the facility, which recorded the unsanctioned practicing. One way or another, the footage made its way to each of the other teams in the Austrian Football Bundesliga.

A familiar franchise now sits atop the Bundesliga standings.

FC Red Bull Salzburg, the league's most successful team in the last 30 years, has reclaimed the top spot.

Could put a stop to a 'Cinderella story'

A far cry from the club's glory days in the 1960s, less than ten years ago, it almost folded. No longer a member of Austria's top tier of soccer, or even the second tier. Relegated to Austrian Regionalliga, the third tier, LASK, was facing bankruptcy.

Unable to pay its players or its stadium, a group of local business people took control. With some work, the team was saved and eventually promoted to the Austrian Football Second League.

A little later, it climbed all the way back to the Bundesliga. In 2019, it was the league's runner-up.