x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Spanish football club Oviedo's financial blues

Former top-flight club languishes in third tier and faces extinction, writes Andy Mitten.

Oviedo, in blue, need €1.9 million before November 17 to stave off liquidation. Angel Martinez / Getty Images
Oviedo, in blue, need €1.9 million before November 17 to stave off liquidation. Angel Martinez / Getty Images

Spanish football clubs are conditioned to the notion of financial problems, none more so than Real Oviedo.

The Asturian club from Fernando Alonso's attractive home city of 225,000 are 17th in the all-time Spanish league table, ahead of clubs like Mallorca, Malaga and Villarreal.

That is still two places behind rivals and neighbours Sporting Gijon, but Oviedo are a proud club.

They were the first from their region to play in the top flight. Their striker, Isidro Langara, was Spain's top scorer three seasons in succession in the 1930s.

The club played host to World Cup matches in 1982. And their ground, the 30,500-capacity Estadio Carlos Tartiere, is one of Spain's finest.

The new stadium, however, saw just one season of Primera Liga action when it opened in 2000; the home club went down that season after 13 consecutive seasons in the top flight, never to return since.

The team for which the English Premier League stars Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata and Michu developed their talents now play in the regional third tier alongside the reserve team of Sporting and Real Madrid's C team.

It is not ideal, but they were in the fourth level for four seasons until 2009, playing against teams with average crowds of 200. The story was different at home; nearly 30,000 watched one fourth-tier game in 2006, a league record.

Oviedo have spent the past decade fighting for survival, lurching from crisis to crisis and it was perhaps apt that they signed the troubled footballer Stan Collymore in 2001, only for him to walk out after 34 days.

Their latest crisis threatens their existence. They need €1.9 million (Dh9m) before November 17 to stave off liquidation. A share issue (shares cost €10 each) was launched on Friday and over 4,000 fans around the world – many of them who had barely heard of the club a week ago – have purchased €200,000 worth of shares in three days.

Michu and Mata have retweeted the requests on social media and offered support, while the English journalist Sid Lowe, an Oviedo fan since he moved to the city in 1996, has orchestrated a social media campaign.

Oviedo are not the first club to have problems and they will not be the last, but the football community still rallies when a club is in danger of disappearing completely.

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