x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Dubai's Royal Emirates group buy Getafe

Getafe players will have plenty more opportunities to celebrate with their team likely to get stronger. Dani Pozo / AFP
Getafe players will have plenty more opportunities to celebrate with their team likely to get stronger. Dani Pozo / AFP

Spanish club finished sixth last season

New owners will plan to improve a team that are admired for their style of play

Andy Mitten

European football correspondent

The Dubai-based Royal Emirates Group have claimed to have bought Getafe, the Spanish Primera Division club.

A press release from Royal Emirates Group yesterday read: "Royal Emirates Group, the dynamic conglomerate chaired by His Highness Sheikh Butti Bin Suhail on Thursday April 21st, 2011 announced their purchase of first division Spanish football club Getafe CF."

The new owners will undoubtedly have plenty of plans for their new acquisition, who are the worst supported team in Spain's Primera Liga.

The news that they have been bought in a deal worth €62 million (Dh331m) has raised eyebrows in Iberia.

Getafe may have reached the Copa Del Rey final in 2007 and 2008, but there is little glamour attached to the team from a tough Madrid satellite town where most of the locals support Atletico or Real Madrid.

In spite of imaginative advertising campaigns to draw more season ticket holders, Getafe have attracted 'crowds' of 7,000 and 8,000 for league games this season.

Teams in England's third tier are better supported, but the nadir came in December with the visit of Stuttgart in the Europa League.

The Germans are Champions League regulars, yet just two or three thousand home fans considered it a game worth attending. The empty stands were an embarrassment to European football and it was little wonder that Uefa's website did not even mention the low crowd.

There are Spanish teams who would love to play European football. Sporting Gijon would boast 20,000 crowds if they played in the Europa League and no club would suffer a four-figure crowd like Getafe.

And while last season's sixth-place league finish was enough to get the Dark Blues into the Europa League, they've only been in Spain's top flight six years. It is to their credit that they have stayed up, enjoyed a run to the 2008 Uefa Cup quarter-finals and boasted big name managers like Michel, Michael Laudrup, Quique Sanchez Flores and Bernd Schuster.

Getafe's lack of support is understandable. They were only founded in 1983 and they have not built a historical fan base like their neighbours. Even so, those supporters are likely to object if their team is renamed Getafe Team Dubai. Sponsored team names may be commonplace in other sports, but they remain a rarity in football, with the Red Bull teams in New York and Salzburg derided.

Getafe's ambition cannot be faulted with Angel Torres, the club president, building a modern stadium. The 'Coliseum' title may be a bit grandiose for its surroundings, but Torres' promised to expand the 17,700 capacity - usually only reached when Madrid, Atletico or Barca come to town - if crowds consistently warrant it.

They have not so far, but a poor support is only part of the Getafe story and a problem which could be worked on; Villarreal now average 18,000 - 16,000 more than 15 years ago.

The club are admired for their football and last season's highest ever sixth place finish could indicate a team on the up. The club is popular with players: wages are paid on time which is seldom a given in Spain, they can live in Madrid and play in Spain's top flight - the perfect shop window for their talents.

Real Madrid's Esteban Granero talks of "learning a lot about football in my time at Getafe" while the Dark Blues caught the still youthful falling star of Roberto Soldado after buying him from Real Madrid for €4m in 2008. He reignited his career and earned a €10m move to Valencia last year as David Villa's replacement.

Both the new owners and Getafe fans will be hoping for a similar success story, but the sceptics will be watching closely.

sports@thenational.ae

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