Published on May 28th, 2014 | by Bill
Our regular contributor, based in Spain – Tony Higgins has provided this on the situation at SD Eibar, the Basque side newly promoted to La Liga.
Amongst the hills of the Spanish Basque Country there is a football story unravelling that should warm the cockles of anyone who wants to make a STAND against the excesses and sometimes absurdity of the modern game.
In the small town of Eibar, that is inhabited by only 27,000 people and about 50KM west of Bilbao, their football club has made Spanish football history. The town is famous for its armaments factories that have been in existence for years and provided weaponry for the First World War. When the democratically elected Second Spanish Republic was declared, on 14th April 1931, Eibar was the first town to fly the Republican flag. A few years later General Franco led a right wing rebellion, against the Republic, that led to a bloody civil war and many deaths. After the war Spain was plunged into years of dictatorship that only ended in 1975, when Franco died. Today the Republican fag is used by many factions on the left, as a symbol of defiance against the state and I believe that Eibar’s town hall still flies the Republican flag every year, on the 14th April, to commemorate what happened in 1931.
Last Sunday was a big day for the town and their football club, SD Eibar, and the football ground, the Ipurua Municipal Stadium, which holds just over 5000 spectators, was packed to the gunnels. Fellow Basque club Deportivo Alavés were the opponents and SD Eibar needed to win, which they did 1-0, and results go right elsewhere. If that happened it would mean that SD Eibar would be promoted to the top flight of Spanish football for the first time in their seventy five year history. An extraordinary feat for a club that has come up through the Spanish pyramid on very limited resources. As it happened other results did go SD Eibar’s way and promotion was theirs, cue the celebrations.
SD Eibar are an exemplary run club, they have no debt and all their players are paid on time, something of an oddity in modern Spanish football. All this is has been achieved on the lowest budget in their league and even the head of the Spanish league governing body (LFP), Javier Tebas, has commented positively on the SD Eibar financial model. Happy days you would imagine, what could be the problem I hear you asking……well it’s this.
A law which was passed in 1999, ironically to protect clubs, decrees that: Every team has to have capital equal to 25% of the average expenses of all the teams in the Second Division, excluding the two clubs with the biggest outgoings and the two clubs with the smallest outgoings in the division. This means that SD Eibar need to come up with €1.7 million by August 6th, otherwise they face an administrative demotion back to Segunda B (Third tier). The club don’t have this kind of capital and face being punished for being financially sound when some of their rivals, whilst having bigger budgets also have far bigger debts. Faced with this situation and with the possibility of a historic promotion being taken away from them, SD Eibar have responded with a campaign called, “Defiende Al Eibar” / Defend Eibar, designed to raise capital via a share option. Shares can be bought via the club at €50 per share, with certificates to be issued to shareholders in September 2014. At the time of writing SD Eibar have raised around 45% of the money needed through shares bought by ordinary football fans from around the world. The club has been overwhelmed by the support they have received from investors as far afield as Australia, Canada and the USA. Over the last week there has even been a UK/Irish supporters group set up on Twitter which is getting many followers every day. People like Madrid based Paul Reidy, who has written for this fanzine, and journalists like Sid Lowe have all done great work, through social networks and articles, promoting the SD Eibar cause. Last week Eibar’s club president Alex Aranzabal, supported by Real Madrid and former SD Eibar player, Xabi Alonso, made a plea to the football world in Madrid, to support the campaign. He also flatly rejected the proposal that the club could be sold to outside investment by capping shares. “We´d rather take the punishment and get demoted rather than share the soul of what SD Eibar is as a football club” he told journalists at a packed press conference. That phrase alone should be music to the ears of the type of people who read this fanzine. A type of philosophy we all wish our football clubs had I’m sure.
It seems ludicrous to me that a club like SD Eibar could be punished when some top clubs, Ill not mention names but you know who I mean, use lawyers and loopholes to circumvent the financial fair play rules. Some of these clubs have debts in excess €500M and still throw millions chasing their corporate dreams.
So what can you do? Please, if you can afford it, buy a share and help defend SD Eibar and the sporting spirit of football in general. There is talk of a commemorative plaque to feature the names of all new shareholders and new “Defenders of Eibar” at Ipurúa and you will receive a share certificate. BUT if you do invest I urge you to think what you can do for SD Eibar, not what am I going to get. Being part of a club that is trying to stand by its principals means much more than a piece of paper that you can stick on the wall or a name on a plaque.
It would be a fantastic football fairy-tale if SD Eibar could raise the money they need to avoid any action being taken against them. It would be nice if occasionally footballing success was rewarded in an age when economics, not sport, seem to dictate the game we all love.