The effects of the financial crisis run deep. There are soccer clubs in Spain being sold off as though they were apartments repossessed by the banks. They are being sold in notaries' offices, in the courts and in public auctions to the highest bidder.
On Tuesday, it was the turn of Polideportivo Ejido, currently languishing in 20th place in Segunda División B Group IV with one win from 18 games and, like so many Spanish clubs, in the hands of administrators. A notary in Almería waited for potential buyers: the asking price was 800,000 euros, and the taking on of the clubs debts. There were no bidders. The auction house was deserted. Such public actions have, though, lifted the lid on the hidden realities of Spanish soccer's finances.
Judicial sources have highlighted four distinct cases in public auctions during 2011. The first, as in the case of Ejido or Lleida, places the club's competitive place in the hands of the highest bidder and, under normal circumstances, on the condition that the team does not change city. This method serves to reestablish the club free from debts. The second, as in the case of Segunda División Recreativo de Huelva, which this month put 75 percent of its shares up for sale and has a firm purchase offer from Gildoy España SL, concerns public institutions - town halls, like that of Huelva, which hold a stake in the local side and want to sell through an open and auditable process.
The third, which has been pursued by Badalona and many others, is to sell off parts of the club's property to alleviate debts and the fourth when the Social Security (INSS) or other government agency steps in: Alavés, for example, faces having its training facilities auctioned off by the INSS to cover its debt.
"Polideportivo Ejido is a club in liquidation after falling back on the Bankruptcy Law," says the Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE). "In cases such as this, we remain attentive because the sporting regulation in terms of league place takes priority. We understand that assets are liquidated in this situation, whether it be the team bus or the stadium, but not a club's place in the league. For that to happen the sporting regulation would have to be applied, as it will be from January 1; then a league place will be occupied by another team based on results, whether it be by one less team getting relegated or one more getting promoted... but not because it is being sold.
"In cases like that of Recreativo, we would like to see more control over the purchase of shares to avoid another Racing Santander. In Spain, [Indian businessman] Ali Syed was able to buy a club. In England, he wouldn't have been. There, there are external organisms that vet potential buyers in conjunction with the league. Here, the requirements are very soft: a buyer should not hold shares in or occupy a post at another club. We want greater controls to be put in place in the form of bank guarantees and credentials."
In the meantime, nobody wants Polideportivo Ejido. The purchase would be a risky one anyway; judicial sources say that a potential buyer could lose the club, as a reform to the Bankruptcy Law concerning administrative relegation, due to come into effect on January 1, can be applied retroactively.