Let’s talk about SD Eibar

Eibar-fans

The promotion of Basque Country minnows SD Eibar to the top flight of Spanish football is one of the great sporting stories of the year. However, the achievements of the club, and 38-year-old Coach Gaizka Garitano, have been slightly overshadowed by the recent news that they may face demotion back to the third tier of Spanish football if they do not raise €1.7m by August 6.

A campaign has been launched – backed by high profile former player Xabi Alonso – and many journalists, including the Guardians’ Sid Lowe, have been highlighting their plight and urging football fans around the globe to purchase shares in the club to help raise the necessary capital.

There have been claims that they are being punished for being a small well-run club with no debt, so let’s take a deeper look at the situation and ask a couple of questions:

Why do they have to pay this amount of money?

How did they end up in this situation?

Could they have avoided it?

Will they be able to resolve it?

As you have probably read by now, they have to pay the money because of a rule that was introduced by the LFP (Spanish FA) 15 years ago. The rule states that every team in the Segunda Liga 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.

It has been well publicized that Eibar have the smallest budget in the league, so in theory they should also have the lowest wage bill – but this is not the case. In fact, there are at least seven teams in the league that have lower wage bills than the €2.7m spent by the Basque side including Hercules, Alaves, Numancia, Recreativo, Real Jaen and SD Ponferradina, with Alcorcon, Girona and Tenerife all operating at a similar level. Overall, Eibar’s wage to turnover ratio of 70.5% is the second highest in the league.

The fact that they have no debt to service means that they can afford to pay these wages but they are not the only low budget team in the league without debt. Of the 11 teams with budgets of €5m or less, seven of them have very little or zero debt.

So how did Eibar end up in this situation? After all, they knew it was coming. This rule has been in place since 1999 and every team is aware of the consequences of non-compliance. Why did they not budget for it?

Their budget of just under €4m is the lowest in the league by €50,000, just below Cordoba. If they also had the lowest wage bill (currently Hercules at €1.5), they would have had an extra €1.2m in the bank and would have been close to fulfilling the capital requirement. Unfortunately, that strategy would have probably got them relegated straight back to Segunda B.

Much of their wage bill has been taken up by the loan fees of players from the top flight such as Berchiche, Eizmendi, Jota, Morales, Rivas and Garcia, and these deals have certainly helped them in their quest for promotion. The decision to keep a high wage bill seems to be a calculated gamble that has paid off with the ultimate prize.

Last summer, both Lugo and Mirandes had to find similar amounts of money because of another technicality – as covered in our previous article here. Both clubs had similar budgets to Eibar but because they did not achieve promotion to La Liga, they did not enjoy the same media coverage. The year before, a similar fate befell Alcorcon and Guadalajara, with the latter eventually being demoted for alleged financial irregularities (pending appeal – decision due June 10).

The positive news is that SD Eibar should easily raise the capital before the deadline. The coverage of this case has thrust them into the spotlight and fans around the world are snapping up the chance to buy a piece of Spanish football history. Sponsors will also be attracted by the prospect of La Liga coverage and once the money is raised, SD Eibar will be able to look forward to all the financial benefits that top flight football delivers.

The irony of the situation is that the new LFP rules now make the Segunda league a much more even playing field as the bigger teams are actually forced to reduce their outgoings and wage bills to avoid debt accumulation. While this gives teams like Eibar a fighting chance, it also means that there are strict guidelines for all clubs, with no exceptions.

The club’s accountants would have been aware of this impending financial sting – and could have reduced their outgoings – but instead they took the decision to try and consolidate their Segunda status first, just as Lugo and Mirandes did last year. They were always going to have to find the €1.7m – even without promotion – but the €20m revenue they will earn next year will certainly soften the blow.

After August 6, SD Eibar will take their rightful place in La Liga and they will have a whole new set of fans cheering them on.

Eskozia la brava!

Buy shares in SD Eibar

 

Six of the best in La Segunda

soccer artAs we reach the half way point in the season it’s a good time to look at some of the players that have impressed in the Segunda Division this season. Of course, this is not a definitive list, and there are plenty of other players that done well this year. Jona has looked good for Jaen while Borja Viguera has been scoring for fun at Alaves, despite finishing the year at the bottom of the table; German Lux has been solid in goal for Depor while Francisco Molinero has been impressive at right back for Murcia; Mirandes still seem to revolve around Aritz Mujika – when he is fit – and Lekic has been the perfect foil for Scepovic at Sporting. One thing is sure; it is proving to be one of the tightest seasons ever with just five points between the play-off positions and the relegation zone as we approach the winter break. So let’s start with a look at the season’s top scorer so far.

Player: Stefan Šćepović

Age: 23

Club: Sporting de Gijon (on loan from Partizan)

Position: Striker

scepovic

After an impressive youth career in Serbia, the young striker caught the eye of several European teams but he eventually signed a professional contract with OFK Beograd from Belgrade. His career faltered slightly after a goal drought that resulted in several loan spells and a forgettable period at Club Brugge in Belgium. He eventually regained his scoring form at Hapoel Acre in Israel and earned a move back to his homeland with Partizan where he also gained experience in the Europa League. Now aged just 23, Šćepović is hitting the best form of his career so far on loan at Sporting Gijon, where he plays alongside fellow countryman Dejan Lekic. He is currently the top scorer in the Segunda league and his form has once again caught the eye of several clubs, paving the way for a significant move this summer.

Player: Enzo Rennella

Age: 25

Club: CD Lugo (on loan from Real Betis)

Position: Striker/Midfielder

RennellaRennella was born in France but made his mark after signing for Swiss club Lugano. His form caught the eye of scouts from Genoa and he signed a long-term contract with the Italian side. He was immediately loaned back to Lugano and spent the next four years on loan at several clubs. Despite being labelled as a striker, Rennella has been noted for his ability to play in several positions and has often been used in a deeper midfield role as a link-up player. He has good game intelligence as well as an eye for goal and his performances for Cordoba in the 2012-13 season earned him a contract with Spanish side Real Betis. He has spent this season on loan with Lugo and has enjoyed his best spell of form to date. An injury has left him out of action since the end of November, and it is no coincidence that Lugo’s form has dropped dramatically since his absence. He is expected to return in the New Year and will be the key to re-igniting Lugo’s play-off ambitions.

Player: Fernando Pacheco

Age: 21

Club: Real Madrid Castilla

Position: Goalkeeper

pachecoPacheco was born in Badajoz in the Spanish region of Extremadura and signed for Real Madrid at the age of 14. He worked his way up through the ranks and made his first senior appearance for the C-team in 2011 and was quickly called-up to appear for the B-team the same year. By last summer he had sealed his place as first choice keeper for Castilla and despite their terrible start to this year’s Segunda campaign, Pacheco has continued to receive high praise for his consistent performances. As a result, he has also made several appearances for Spain’s U21 team and has been tipped as a future Spanish No1.

Player: Yuri Berchiche

Age: 23

Club: SD Eibar (On loan from Real Sociedad)

Position: Left back

yuriBorn in the Basque Country, Yuri impressed during his youth career at Real Sociedad and was somewhat predictably poached by their arch rivals Athletic Bilbao at the age of 17. The player had been on the radar of many European scouts, and Athletic eventually struck a deal for the player to move to England with Tottenham Hotspur, where he continued his development at their academy. A couple of loan spells followed before he was released and returned to the Basque Country to play for Real Union. It was during his time in the Segunda B league that he really began to flourish and eventually completed his football circle and returned to Real Sociedad. He has spent this season on loan at SD Eibar and has been one of the players of the season with his impressive performances at left back.

Player: Ulises Dávila

Age: 22

Club: Cordoba (on loan from Chelsea)

Position: Midfielder

davilaDávila first caught the eye of international scouts during his 2006 triumph with Guadalajara in the Mexican Youth Championships. By the 2008/09 season he had impressed enough to earn a starting place in the Guadalajara senior team aged just 18. He also appeared in the Copa Libertadores and was a regular member of the Mexican U20 team that came third in the 2011 U20 World Cup in Colombia. He was linked with several European clubs before he became the first ever Mexican player to sign for Chelsea in 2011. Still only 20, he was loaned to Dutch side Vitesse and featured regularly for their reserve team. His Spanish odyssey began the following season with an impressive loan spell at Sabadell in the Segunda Division. Ironically his first league goal came against the Spanish side, Guadalajara. In the summer he agreed a loan move to Cordoba on transfer deadline day and has enjoyed the best ever form of his career. Still only 22, he has already been called up to the Mexican senior team and could enjoy a bright future is he continues to develop at his current rate.

Player: Vicente Gomez

Age: 25

Club: Las Palmas

Position: Defensive midfielder

vicente gomezVicente Gómez was born in Las Palmas on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria and began his career for local team AD Huracán. His role in their promotion to the Tercera Division in 2008 earned him a move to Las Palmas where he made 28 appearances for the B team before being promoted to the senior squad. Since then he has remained a regular fixture in the Las Palmas first team and last season he helped them reach the play-offs where they eventually lost to Almeria. In the summer, Las Palmas lost their star player Vitolo to Sevilla but Vicente Gómez has helped the side to remain in the hunt for promotion with his assured performances alongside fellow midfielder Apoño.

Real Jaen put financial woes behind them

Real JaenThere was good news for Real Jaen today as the Mayor of Jaen, Jose Enrique Fernández de Moya, and the president of the football club, Rafael Teruel, announced at a press conference that the National Sports Council (CSD ) has given the seal of approval to a new set of accounts that have been submitted by the club. The accounts show that the club meets the financial requirements necessary to continue in the Segunda Division and will avoid an administrative relegation to Segunda B, a fate which befell Guadalajara last year.

After three years of hard work to get the club finances back on track after they were faced with bankruptcy, the news will come as welcome relief for everyone involved at the club. The successful meeting with the president of the CSD, brings to an end a difficult period for the club during which a shadow of uncertainty has followed the club despite the joy of promotion to the Segunda Division.

Club President Rafael Teruel expressed his satisfaction with the ruling: “We are very happy. Now we have to move on and worry only about sport.”

The fields of Anfield Carro

CD Lugo LogoIf you are a fan of Liverpool FC and enjoy watching Spanish football; you may have a preference for a certain team in La Liga. You might admire the tiqui-taca style of Barcelona or have a soft spot for Rafa Benitez’s old club, Valencia. You may even have a fondness for an old European final adversary such as Deportivo Alavés or Real Madrid. However, there is a club tailor made for Liverpool fans and they could be about to embark on an epic journey into the glamorous world of La Liga. That club is CD Lugo.

During the 1980’s, many Spanish football fans admired from afar as Liverpool dominated European football with their impressive pass and move style of football. This style of football appealed to the Spanish as it was the way that all fans wanted their teams to play. Pass and move football had been introduced to Spain in the early 20th century by pioneering English and Scottish coaches who had moved to the the country to ply their trade.

Since their foundation in 1953, CD Lugo had spent most of their time in the fourth tier of Spanish football, but in the 1980’s the club from the Galicia province had one of their best ever teams and established themselves at Segunda B level. Eventually, in 1993, they secured their first ever promotion to the Segunda Liga, where they spent just one season.

During this successful period in the 80’s and 90’s, many supporters started referring to their team as “Lugopool” in a humorous show of appreciation for the attractive style of football that their team had adopted. Soon after, they went one step further and started referring to their “Anxo Carro” stadium as “Anfield Carro,” a nickname that has stuck to this day. It was then only natural that the fans began singing Liverpool’s famous anthem “You’ll never walk alone” on the terraces.

It has taken nearly two decades but CD Lugo, also known as “Xogo Bonito (Beautiful game),” are finally back in the Segunda Division and they are enjoying life near the top of the table. They are once again playing their coveted brand of pass and move football, under the guidance of former Racing Santander legend Quique Setién, and they could even be on the verge of gaining promotion to La Liga for the first time in the club’s history.

So, if you are a Liverpool fan wondering which Spanish club you should follow – then look no further. Get behind the boys at Anfield Carro as they sing “You’ll never walk alone” all the way to the top tier of Spanish football.

Estadio Anxo Carro, otherwise known as "Anfield Carro"

Estadio Anxo Carro, otherwise known as “Anfield Carro”

An ode to the Segunda

TragedyWith the new season upon us, let me pay tribute to the Segunda Division; a realm of Spanish football far-removed from the glitz and glamour of its more illustrious sibling. This is the backyard of Spanish football that leads; one way, to the palace of fortune and the other, to the barren alleyways of the part-time regional leagues. For the lower league minnows, it is the Promised Land; where the Holy Grail of La Liga glory is just a battlefield away. But for the once-mighty that have fallen from grace it is a place to be feared; it is the trapdoor to oblivion.

The Segunda is a place where success cannot be bought. This is the domain of zero net-spends, regulated wage bills and restricted budgets. The giants that find themselves exiled into this wasteland are stripped of their treasures and must earn their way back. No guts, no glory.

The Segunda is a technical proving ground for maverick Coaches looking to make their mark in the land of tiqui-taca. It is the home of former legends making a last stand alongside the journeymen who hitch a ride on the annual carousel of loans and free transfers like footballing hobos.

To prevail in this league you need to play with skill, intelligence and invention.  You also need strength and guile and you need passion.  There is no easy way out. Antiquated purveyors of the long-ball game are duly sentenced to death-by-football in half-empty stadiums, heckled by fanatical ultras from behind clouds of pyro and weed smoke.

This is a land of bureaucracy and red-tape where a wrongly dotted i or an uncrossed t can lead to expulsion and where mud-slinging, name-calling and allegations of subterfuge are par for the course. An unpalatable clash of politics, drama and sport that is strangely compelling for all its flaws. This is Spanish football at its best; raw and unplugged, no ribbons or bows.

The Segunda is back. Let the games begin.

THE INVINCIBLES – CD Ourense and Spanish football’s perfect season

CD Ourense

If you mention “The Invincibles” to most football fans, they will probably think you are referring to the undefeated Arsenal team that won the Premier League in 2003/04. Or, if you happen to be speaking to a Preston North End fan, they will be convinced you are paying homage to the undefeated double-winning side of 1889. But as great as those teams were, their seasons were not perfect; Arsenal drew 12 out of their 36 games and Preston drew four out of 18.

In Spain, there once existed a team of true invincibles, a team that played an entire League campaign of 30 games without a single loss or draw. This was not a famous team with a great reputation or pedigree, this was CD Ourense; a small third division club from Galicia in the North West of Spain, formed in 1952 from the ashes of the demised Unión Deportiva Orensana.

It was the 1967/68 season and Ourense were still hurting from missing out on promotion the previous season. They had won the league but failed to progress in the play-offs. Coach, Fernando Bouso kept the same group of players in the hope that they could maintain their momentum from the previous campaign. The preferred line-up for that season consisted of Roca “The Rock”, Varela, Astigarraga, Paredes, Ángel, Pito “The Gladiator”; Cortés, Seara, Carballeda, Pataco y Túnez.

The third division was split into regional groups, so Ourense would only face teams from their own geographical region. The league normally received very little national coverage but during the course of the season, after many consecutive wins, the national media started to take interest as the story evolved. The remarkable feat of completing a perfect season is very rare in football and had never been achieved in Spain.

Eventually, after winning 26 games in a row, scoring 89 goals and conceding just seven, the team really hit the headlines when they were invited to the Spanish capital to play a mid-week friendly against Atletico Madrid. Bouso, who was born in Madrid to Ourense parents, had previously played for Atletico and had kept strong contacts at the club.

They won the game 3-1 and suddenly everyone in Spain knew about these minnows from Galicia who were just four games away from creating history. The club and the city itself had become obsessed with achieving the perfect season and now the whole of Spain was embroiled in their quest.

Previously anonymous players such as Pataco, Túnez and Carballeda, suddenly became household names and started to attract interest from Spain’s top clubs. Representatives from Barcelona and Valencia made huge offers to try and prize them away but club President, Florencio Álvarez, insisted he would not discuss business until the season was over. These were unwanted distractions at such a crucial time for the team.

It was the job of Fernando Bouso to keep the players focused on the task in hand. The perfect season had become an obsession but it did not guarantee promotion, only a place in the play-offs. The pressure was mounting – the whole of Spain was watching, expecting.

For the next game they travelled away to Vigo to face Rápido de Bouzas; the game was tight and the pressure on the players was evident. The stadium was full and the media circus was in town to see if the Ourense odyssey could continue. A solitary goal from Seara secured a hard-fought victory and all eyes turned to the next fixture.

The tension at the next game was incredible. The stadium was packed well beyond capacity as bitter rivals Lugo arrived in town intent on spoiling the party. By the 90th minute the game was poised at 1-1 and heading into injury-time. It looked like the dream was over and the Lugo fans were revelling at the prospect of raining on the parade. Then Ourense won a corner.

The corner was delivered into the box and disappeared into a mass of bodies. Somewhere amongst the scramble, Carballeda managed to engineer a shot on goal and it looked like it was in, but as the players cleared, the keeper appeared with the ball. Carballeda claimed the ball had crossed the line and the referee, who was just a few yards away, agreed. The goal was given. The Lugo players protested in vain and the final whistle was blown, sparking jubilant scenes at El Estadio de O Couto.

The next game was much easier as they cruised to a 5-0 victory against city rivals Atletico Ourense leaving them just one game away from making history. They would have to travel to second-placed Santiago de Compostela who were enjoying a good run of their own, having suffered just one defeat all season.

Ourense took a large amount of fans and descended upon Santiago where they were greeted by newspaper reporters, TV crews and huge crowds that had gathered to witness this event of national importance. Ourense had captured the imagination of the Spanish people and everyone outside of Santiago was willing them to succeed.

The game was decided by a single goal, once again scored by Carballeda – his 38th of the season. The packed stadium erupted as the final whistle blew and even the Santiago fans gave the history-makers from Ourense a standing ovation. The impossible had been accomplished. The perfect season was complete: 30 games, 30 wins, 98 goals scored and just eight conceded. The newspapers lauded them as Heros and their achievements were hailed in sports media all across Europe and beyond. They were even awarded the Silver Medal for Sporting Merit by the Spanish National Minister for Sport.

Despite the plaudits, CD Ourense still had to compete in the play-offs to secure promotion and were eventually beaten over two legs by Club Deportivo Ilicitano. Bouso later admitted that the team had become burnt-out and overwhelmed by pressure. They had been totally obsessed with remaining unbeaten in the League and once that had been achieved, they had nothing left to give in that final play-off game.

The following year they finally got promoted after just two defeats all season. There was little fuss in the media and the legend of the perfect season was already fading. The team gradually went their separate ways, most notably Carlos Pataco; who eventually made the big move to Atletico Madrid where his career faltered due to injury, and Elidio Cortés; who moved to Deportivo La Coruna and made more than one hundred appearances.

So next time someone mentions “The Invincibles,” remind them of CD Ourense, the team from Galicia; the team that played the perfect season.

 

Unravelling the red tape – Mirandes and Lugo pay the price of success

red-tape

It has been reported recently that the Spanish Second Division teams: CD Mirandes and CD Lugo, may be expelled from the Division for failing to meet financial obligations. So, exactly what have these clubs done wrong? The answer of course is nothing. Both teams have existed happily in the lower leagues for many years and have been well-run with little or no debt; they have formed good relationships with local sponsors and businesses and have enjoyed strong support form the local communities. So why are they now on the verge of being punished so harshly?

The answer is that they have become victims of their own success. The transition from part-time minnows to potential La Liga competitors is a massive one for these clubs and in order to play with the big boys they must hatchet their way through a mass of Government red-tape. To compete for a second season in the Division they must first change the legal structure of their clubs.

In 1990 the Spanish authorities sought to adopt a common economic and legal model for all sporting teams competing at the highest level. The aim was to allow the clubs to participate in share trading on the stock market, establish a clear and transparent administrative control system over ownership issues and to ensure the interests of the public and future investors are protected. To conform to these guidelines football clubs that are not already registered must convert to a Sociedad Anónima Deportiva (SAD). In order to do this the club must cover administration costs for the conversion to the legal format. Because Mirandes and Lugo are new to this level of football (Lugo reached the Segunda in 1992 but were relegated after one season), they have never been converted to an SAD.

For a small team like CD Mirandes, who have been operating on a budget of 500,000 euros a year, this means they have to raise nearly 2.5 million euros in order to pay for the administration costs of the conversion. This money is demanded by the Governments Sports Council (Consejo Superior de Deportes, CSD) and is non-negotiable, unless of course you happen to be Athletic Club Bilbao, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid or Osasuna, who were allowed to retain their non-commercial statuses for historical reasons.

The implications of non-payment are clear; the teams will be relegated from the Segunda Division. The President of Lugo, José Bouso, declared that: “the club is optimistic about completing the conversion.” However they have received a 900,000 euro contribution from the council, and a further 600,000 euros from the City of Lugo, leaving just under one million euros to pay.

CD Mirandes are finding things a bit more difficult as they have received no regional or provincial support and need to find the money themselves. So far they have raised only 15% of the amount needed and have until 30th June to declare their status.

The situation could deter potential investors from looking at smaller non-SAD clubs, as any progress on the pitch could lead to an unwanted encounter with bureaucracy.

(The expulsion of CD Guadalajara from the Segunda Division amid doubts over their SAD status is currently in the middle of a legal process)

The incredible sporting prowess of Jose Maria Yermo Solaegui

Yermo

Born in 1903 and known simply as “Yermo”, Jose Maria Yermo Solaegui was a Basque footballer who played as a striker for Arenas Club de Getxo and captained the Spanish national team. In 1928 he famously became the first player to score a hat-trick for Spain. However, his sporting achievements were not limited to the football pitch.

As well as being a talented footballer, Yermo was a prolific sportsman who also represented Spain at international level in cycling and competed at the Olympics in athletics, cycling and football. He was the Spanish record holder for long jump and triple jump and also competed in high jump, rowing, hammer-throwing, hockey and motorcycling.

His sporting exploits are a prime example of the proud Basque tradition for showcasing acts of physical strength and endurance; a tradition that caused many footballers from the region to compete in other sports. In fact, in 1923 four players from Arenas Club became the Spanish 4x250m relay champions – led by another club legend, Pedro Vallana.

Arenas de Getxo Football Club were founded in 1909 and soon became one of the biggest names in Spanish football – winning many regional tournaments and dominating the sport in the Basque Country. In 1914 they met Barcelona in a series of friendly games and won them all. In the following years they went on to become champions of Northern Spain and the Basque Country and they competed in three Spanish cup finals.

It was the Director of Arenas Club de Getxo, Jose Maria Acha, who first proposed the idea of a national league at a meeting in 1927 – an idea that became reality in 1929 when La Liga was formed. Arenas Club competed at the top level for the first 7 seasons of La Liga and many of their players went on to represent Spain at national level. They were eventually relegated in 1935 and have never returned to La Liga since.

The first time Yermo competed wearing the colours of Arenas Club; it was as a teenage athlete. His was known for his jumping abilty and in 1923, he became the Spanish long jump record holder with a jump of 6.23m and under a year later he became the first Spanish triple jumper to break the 13m barrier with a jump of 13.48m. The jump was enough to secure him a place at the 1924 Paris Olympics but he was unable to compete due to injury.

He won multiple medals at the Spanish national athletic championships, including three silver and two bronze medals in his favoured long and triple jump events between 1923 and 1925. In 1926 he became a cycling champion, winning the Basque speed championship and was also a runner-up in the Spanish championship. This earned him a place in the Spanish team for the World Championships but they were unable to secure a medal.

By 1928, Yermo was an established striker for Arenas Football Club and was chosen to captain Spain at the Amsterdam Olympics were he became the first Spanish player to score a hat-trick in a 7-1 demolition of Mexico. Unfortunately they were then beaten by the same score-line in the Quarter finals against Italy with Yermo scoring the only goal for Spain. Incredibly, he was also chosen to compete in cycling at the same Olympics – the first time Spain had ever had a cyclist at the games. He finished a commendable 12th in the 1km time trials.

Yermo began his football career in the youth ranks at Arenas Club and spent his entire career playing for the Basque Country side before finally retiring in 1935. As well as many appearances at regional level, he also made 51 appearances in La Liga, scoring a total of 30 goals and securing his place as an Arenas Club legend.

In the summer of 1932, Yermo made the news again after becoming the first person to row the course of the river Ebro from Aragon to the Mediterranean. He completed the course despite being capsized and battered against rocks in Sastago.

After leaving football, he retained a strong interest in rowing and cycling and, inspired by the Tour de France, he became a key player in the inauguration of the now famous Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain) cycling race. He lived to see the race grow into a prestigious global event before passing away in 1960 aged just 57.