Unpaid bills could result in Elche dropping two divisions.
They survived in the first division but went down to the second division anyway, then went back to the first division again before returning to the second once more. They still haven’t lost hope of returning to the first division again, but now they could be relegated for a second time, heading down another division down to Spain’s regionalised, four-group, eighty-team Second Division B. And all that in barely a month.
On Tuesday afternoon, a judge confirmed that Elche – who finished the season thirteenth in the first division, well clear of the relegation zone – would be demoted to the second division, because they failed to pay in time a debt to the Inland Revenue.
Elche have become the first Spanish team ever to be relegated from the first division to the second because of financial mismanagement. (In 1995 Sevilla and Celta were both relegated because of debts to the state, but were eventually reinstated, leading to a 22-team first division). Their place will be taken by Eibar, who finished eighteenth.
Elche were relegated by the league and the punishment was then confirmed by the Tribunal Administrativo Deportivo, the Spanish sporting court. With protests from fans in the city, a judge then suspended the sentence pending a hearing with the two clubs and the league on Monday. Momentarily, Eibar were back in the first division.
Elche argued that they did pay the taxman, but admitted that the payment was made after the deadline. They also argued that the sanction was disproportionate and ran the risk of putting them out of business and insisted that other clubs also have debts with the state but have not been punished. They also insisted that it is not fair to punish the current administration at the club under president Juan Anguix which is trying to resolve the mess that they inherited from former president José Sepulcre.
But on Tuesday, Judge Eva María Alfageme ruled that there was no reason for the suspension to be suspended, thus confirming the relegation. And now worse may follow. Elche owe 7.8m euros in wages. More than thirty formal denuncias, or official complaints, have accumulated from players and coaches. Elche have until July 31 to pay, which they say they will do but there is no money.
If they do not pay, the league and the players’ union, the AFE, will begin proceedings to relegate them to the second division B.
“I feel sunk,” said the club spokesman José María San Matías.
For the first time there was a public recognition of Manchester United’s interest in signing Sergio Ramos.
“It is a process … and maybe Mister Ramos is in the process, you never know,” Louis Van Gaal said, rather enigmatically.
United have made a formal bid for the defender, who wants to leave for the Premier League, but so far Madrid say they will not sell.
The “process” has begun … when it will finish, and how it will finish, is another matter.
Jackson Martinez was late but he did eventually arrive at Barajas airport from Bogotá. At just under 37m euros, he is the second most expensive player in Atlético Madrid’s history, after his countryman Radamel Falcao.
“Falcao’s Falcao and I’m me,” he said, but the expectation was huge, with fans gathered at the airport to greet him.
Officially signed on 15 July, Martínez was due at Atlético’s training camp near Segovia on 19 July; two days later he got there. “Anyone who doesn’t know about Atlético doesn’t know about football,” he said.
Luis Suarez scored for Barcelona against LA Galaxy and against his old friend Steven Gerrard. It was Barcelona’s first game of pre-season; it was also, Suárez said, “the first time in six years that I have had a full break and complete pre-season.”