The LFP decided not to allow Real Murcia to participate in next season’s Segunda competition, and condemned Real to Group 1 of Segunda B. The reasoning seems to change from day to day, the procedure also. One day the LFP (the league) say Hacienda (equivalent to Inland Revenue) have denied Real the chance to reorganize their debt, and insist on relegation. Next day Hacienda insists they have not. Owner Jesús Samper says one day he has reached agreement with hacienda in Murcia, next day hacienda in Madrid say no such agreement exists. Then the LFP make new rules and invent some new “ratio” that clubs have to complete, custom made so 1 team (Real) don’t, and apply these rules retroactively to last season. The commission that were meeting on Thursday to decide on Real’s future (12 members, representing 12 clubs), were to vote on Real’s inclusion. Then, the LFP decided there would be no vote and only a ratification of a decision already made, because Real Murcia had not met the “ratio” requirements. One day after the announcement of Real’s relegation, the LFP have changed their mind again and now the relegation is because of “non payment proceedings”. What is clear is that there is no set criteria, and the new set of rules and ratios needed a team to make an example of, and Real fit the bill perfectly, with our unpopular, bighead, ex LFP president and sworn enemy of now LFP president Javier Tebas, Jesús Samper at the helm. Now Samper is famously slow to react, and whilst other, worse off clubs managed to get all their ducks in a row, he always insists “I decide when it is time” (“nosotros marcamos los tiempos”). This time, time ran out, and now Samper’s house of cards seems to be falling in on him because of his negligence. It’s as if he was walking around in front of an armed enemy, with a massive target on his back. Tebas took his chance, even mentioning that “even if Samper came along with €8m to pay his tax bill, now it’s too late”.
This is the second time Real have been relegated in this manner. The last time the LFP changed their rules, Real Murcia were also made an example of. Back in 1992, when all clubs had to become “SAD” (Limited companies). Real failed to sell the required value in shares. The following season Sevilla and Celta had the same situation and were relegated, only to be reinstated. Note that Real Madrid and Barcelona were not subject to this rule change – they still aren’t. But then those 2 always live outside the rules.
For some perspective, a few facts: The total debts of football clubs in Spain stands at €4,114,000,000. Real Murcia’s debts total anywhere between €30,000,000 and €40,000,000. Let’s take the middle number and call it €35,000,000. A lot. Too much. But a lot less that many clubs in a similar position and who will be allowed to compete in Segunda next season, and just 0,85% of the total. The part of this debt owed to the taxman is around €10m. Of the total Spanish clubs owe to the taxman (around €600,000) it represents only 1,6% of the total. Seems clear that Real Murcia have been singled out for punishment.
There are also a few other contributing factors, which make Real an easy target (again). Contempt for Murcia is pretty generalized amongst Spaniards, who see Murcia as a backwater, and it’s residents as country bumpkins, ill educated and backwards, whose accent they find almost indecipherable. “Kill the King, and go to Murcia” is a common saying. They bring a lot of this upon themselves by being weak in defence of their own; unlike most other regions, there is little or no regionalist political movement. When regional government is of the same colour as the national government, they tow the line, and gain nothing. When regional and national governments of distinct colour, then Murcia gets less than nothing. But it doesn’t matter – it’s only Murcia. In football terms, the same applies, and the Murcians (in their majority) do not lend their support to their local team, preferring the easy, lazy and dishonest route to glory; Real Madrid or FC Barcelona. I’m sure that big city people see this a boorish. That is, in the 6 cities bigger than Murcia (Spain’s 7th city).
The punishment being dished out doesn’t just stop at relegation. The LFP are also practicing further torture on Real. Segunda B is split into 4 regional groups (Spain being a far bigger country than say England). Real will have to occupy the place of Mirandés (the team promoted in Real’s place) in group 1, which geographically is in the opposite corner of the country. The nearest rival is around 500 kilometres away. There is also a €180,000 fine to pay. It’s sadistic and mal-intentioned. It’s help LFP style.
All this leaves the club at best in limbo, at worst on it’s deathbed, desperately clutching at straws and legal loopholes. Playing staff are almost all looking for alternatives. The AFE (footballers union) said in Murcia on Tuesday that they would “not permit that rules made by the clubs (LFP) effect the players”. This was clear posture in favour of Real Murcia, whose relegation they saw as “an injustice”. Or at least they saw it that way until Mirandés playing staff complained that they were also being affected. After Real’s relegation, the AFE, so far, far from taking any action, have done nothing. Behind the scenes they are probably urging their members to abandon ship.
LFP President Tebas has many of the same characteristics as Samper. Totalitarian, dictatorial, and seemingly infallible in their own minds. However, he is overseeing the disaster that is Spanish football anywhere outside Madrid and Barcelona. The FA have rules and investigate prospective owners, and have a “fit and proper person” test that has to be passed. The FA makes clear that all football debts must be cleared before the start of any season, upon punishment of relegation. There are no doubts about the rules. Going into administration means a points deduction. No such controls or rules exist here in Spain. Half of the teams in Primera and Segunda have gone into administration, and exactly zero points have been deducted. Tebas also delights in his power; whilst planning the relegation of Real Murcia, he toured the US with Deportivo La Coruña, whose debts are around 10 times (yes, ten!) Real Murcia’s. Can you imagine the chairman of the Premier league or FA doing such a thing? Or being photographed happily lunching each week with Florentino Perez (President of Real Madrid)? This is not your normal diligent leader. This is Tony Soprano. He even said, without any hint of irony, yesterday in the same press conference that condemned Real Murcia, that “we want all teams to compete in economic equality”. That’s the equality that gives Madrid and Barcelona 50% of the cake, and 50% amongst all the other 40 professional teams.
Clubs going into administration in Spain can proceed with a “quita”, which is an agreed reduction of debt with creditors. Something like, creditors agreeing to receive half, rather than see the club closed and getting nothing. Now Samper is such a big-head, he, taking Real into administration, refused that opportunity to reduce debt, preferring to puff his chest out and insist on “paying 100%”. The trick being that most of the club’s debt is to Samper companies who injected cash into the club to cover losses accrued under, you guessed, Samper’s own disastrous regime.
This chaos leads to situations where a club like Levante, who went into administration owing Real around €2m for the transfer of Pedro León, got away with paying Real €1m less, yet were amongst the 12 clubs on the commission who were denied the opportunity to vote on Real’s future. How would they have voted? Probably whatever Tebas dictated.
To add insult to injury, the LFP twitter account (@laliga) is blocking Real fans and even the official supporters club (as far as I can see, no insults, only legitimate questions are being asked). This is Spain. Not Cuba, not Venezuela, not Burma.
While the club agonizes, Samper marks time. Silence. He has one final straw to clutch. He is taking the case to “ordinary justice”. If he can get a judge to admit the case, the LFP may be forced to readmit Real Murcia. Extremely unlikely in my opinion. Whatever the outcome, Samper’s position as owner is untenable. He’s been found out as a fraud and a liar, and a very inept businessman.
Difficult times. Segunda B doesn’t worry me. It’s the very existence of the club that does.