Start were Norwegian champions in 1978 and 1980. They participated in the European Cup in 1979 and 1981, as well as being qualified for the UEFA Champions League 2006–07. The years since 1995 have been turbulent, but recent investments have given greater expectations for the future. In 2004 they won the Norwegian 1. divisjon and were promoted to the top flight.
In 2006, after beating Skála of the Faroe Islands in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Cup, and Drogheda United of Ireland in the second qualifying round (after penalties), they reached the first round of the UEFA Cup, where they were knocked out by Ajax of the Netherlands.
2007 was a bad year for Start, with problems working as a team and management issues. It led to a disappointing 13th place, leading to Start’s relegation to 1. divisjon. In 2008 the club got financial problems. The local government saved the club from bankruptcy. The financial difficulties has plagued Start for several seasons, due to the financial crisis and the Norwegian footballteams overspending, Start being no exception. The last couple of seasons, Start has downsized and saved money, for example by changing the turf on Sør Arena, the hopes being that the savings will keep the wheels turning in Start.
Ahead of the 2009 season, Knut Tørum was appointed head coach of Start. The next two seasons, Start was positioned at the lower half of Tippeligaen although achieving some strong results, like being the only team to beat Rosenborg in 2009, at Rosenborgs homeground Lerkendal, delaying their gold celebration. On 22 June 2011, Start had 13 points in 12 matches, and Tørum decided to resign hours before a cup-match against Strømsgodset, a match Start won without Tørum. Mons Ivar Mjelde replaced Tørum as head coach, but was not able to save Start from relegation. Start started the 2012 1. divisjon in strong fashion, leading the division and winning important matches and won promotion at the end of the season.
Start defeated Stabæk 4–1 on 4 July 2015. From 12 July 2015 to 18 September 2016, Start played 39 consecutive games without a win in Tippeligaen. This is the longest run without winning a single game across any top division in Europe