After beating local rivals Deportivo Alaves on Sunday evening, SD Eibar were promoted to La Liga following Las Palmas’ defeat to Recreativo Huelva. The tiny club from the Basque Country has never featured in the top division against the likes of Barcelona, Real and Atletico Madrid in their 74 year history, but due to an absurd technicality, could be forced to wait even longer for their time at the top.
Due to no fault of their own, the Basques could even find themselves demoted to the Segunda Division B if the rules stand. It is a rule which has sparked mass interest in Spain and across Europe.
The LFP (Spain’s governing body) state that clubs must raise 25% of the average expenses of each club in the division (minus the top and bottom two clubs) in capital value, meaning Eibar require another €1.7m to reach the figure and not incur any punishment. Regardless of the club’s monumental achievements – there are just 27,000 people in the town and the stadium holds little over 5,000 spectators – it appears as though the financially secure club has to comply with the rulings, despite appeals from Basque players such as Xabi Alonso and Asier Illarramendi.
To prevent a demotion to the Segunda B, Eibar have started to sell shares at €50 each in an attempt to raise the cash. Rules also permit that only a maximum holding of 2% is allowed which prevents the likes of Alonso from making large payments to the club.
It could be a distasteful way to end such a season for the Basques, who were promoted at the beginning of the season. They came up as the smallest team in the top two divisions, yet have maintained their stunning form all season, even with the likes of Deportivo La Coruna, Mallorca and Zaragoza having been relegated to the Segunda.
Due largely to the size of the club, they have clean financial books with no debt whatsoever – a real rarity in Spanish football – whereas second placed Deportivo entered administration last season. The Riazor club’s budget is roughly 7 times that of Eibar, who lead them by a single point with one game to play.
Atletico Madrid’s recent La Liga achievements are surprising but nothing compared to the feat Eibar could achieve. Accrington Stanley and Fleetwood Town are the only English Football League clubs who have smaller grounds than Eibar, who could be welcoming Barcelona and Real Madrid amongst others to their minute stadium, Ipura.
The club has 71 days to raise roughly €1m more, having gained popularity in recent days following their promotion. A related website is continuing to sell shares at www.defiendealeibar.com and are 44% of the way towards their target. It remains to be seen whether the LFP will go easy on Eibar (hint: probably not because they won’t make as much money from Eibar) but the efforts from the players and staff deserves a fair chance in La Liga next season, not one step further back.