In 2008 Racing Santander finished 6th in La Liga and qualified for Europe. In 2013 they were playing in the third tier, broke and with corruption charges hanging over them. The problems started back in 2011 and since then it has been only bad news for the fans of Los Racinguistas.
When Ahsan Ali Syed took over the club, he spoke of Champions League and challenging Barca and Real Madrid. Former President Miguel Angel Revilla had brought him to the club and Cantabria President, Francisco Pernia, approved the deal. What was conveniently ignored was the fact that he had tried to buy Blackburn Rovers first but had been rejected after he failed the ‘fit and proper’ persons test.
‘Mr Ali’ pumped some money into the club but then the well ran dry and he disappeared. The club’s debts grew and so fans tried to take over Racing. They looked set to get their way until Ali sent his lawyers and he retained control of the club. Two relegations later and the 100-year-old club are still in limbo. Their debts stand at over €50m and there is a court case in process over the ownership.
Last year alone they spent close to €1m on legal fees and there is nothing to suggest that this year that figure won’t be repeated. Amazing as this story is, it hasn’t got that much coverage, at least until this year’s Copa del Rey.
Four days before their Copa del Rey quarter-final tie against Real Sociedad, Racing’s players announced a strike and insisted that they would not be playing the second-leg, which was being held at home. The reason was unpaid wages. They and other members of staff had gone four months without being paid.
The players made their feelings very clear: Unless President Angel Lavin and his board resigned before kick-off, they wouldn’t be playing. It was a tough decision, the semi-final was a dream tie against Barca and Racing had already knocked out two first division sides. They were confident of adding another to the list but stood firm and the world was looking.
Against Almeria the players were forced to travel to and from the game by bus while their President was rumoured to have taken a plane. The trip back home was 1000km but the players celebrated the win and enjoyed the moment. President Lavin tried to join in but his calls were ignored. This win was theirs and the fans and had nothing to do with him. They were determined to let him know that.
On Thursday, images of Racing players standing in the centre circle and the coaching staff standing on the touchline grabbed the world’s attention. Praise for their courage came from all. They were warned there would be consequences to their stand but they didn’t care.
Hopefully now the LFP will wake up and see that there is a real problem with the Spanish game and it needs to be remedied before it is too late. Racing players are just hoping to see some of their owed money and soon.