Perched in the mountainous town of Eibar sits a small stadium by the name of Ipurua. A dwarf compared to its competitors, seating a mere 6,000 fans, the construct is much akin to the team which plies its modest trade within its walls.
SD Eibar, founded in 1940, have spent much of their operational years battling it out in the Segunda, but now stand on the edge of a lucrative and historic new era of their history. After reaching Spain’s top flight for the first time, due to unprecedented back-to-back promotion success, Gaizka Garitano’s men could be sent back into the depths of the League from whence they came by a rule designed to protect them.
By attempting to run their club the right way, Eibar’s growth could be hamstrung by the LFP regulation which states that the Basque club require capital worth a quarter of the expenses of every club in the Division, bar the two richest and two poorest, in order to ratify their promotion.
For a team which takes in modest gate receipts, spends little-to-nothing on transfers and can only offer their players nominal wages, this represents a huge problem.
Logically, if this stumbling block proved too high for Eibar to clamber over, they would merely be contained within Spain’s second tier for another season – but this wouldn’t be the case. Should the Basque club fail to find the funds or investment required to satisfy the LFP’s rulebooks, their financial situation would see them demoted back to the third division, a literal case of one step forward and two back.
There is undoubted charm to Eibar’s cause, as a former player in the form of 38-year-old Garitano has led them to unforeseen success. The highest finish the club has enjoyed in its history was a fourth-place Segunda spot back in 2004-2005, meaning that not even the most optimistic of Eibar fans could have predicted what this season held in store.
Fittingly, the man to score the decisive 61st minute goal against Alaves was Jota Peleteiro, the midfielder who has helped to inspire his teammates to complete such a fantastic campaign.
Blessed with confidence and technical ability in abundance, the same man netted versus promotion rivals Deportivo La Coruna on the previous matchday, though this time the ball flashed into the back of the net one minute later and wilder celebrations followed.
Jota represents one of the many reasons why this Eibar side deserve the opportunity to test their fortunes against Spain’s giants, with anything but promotion sending out the wrong message to small clubs as to how to run their club best.
Operating on a shoe-string budget and entertaining their own fans and neutrals alike, there is something inherently underdog about the Basque minnows. With a rare lack of debt and a frugal approach to club finances, as Eibar have a budget of merely €5m, it would seem clear that this type of spending and intelligent infrastructure should be encouraged with the ‘promoted’ club put on a pedestal – but as yet they are in limbo, La Segunda’s take on purgatory.
In an attempt to raise finances to meet the LFP’s criteria, Eibar have taken to selling shares on their club website, inviting online users to donate anything upwards of €50 to try and shore up their claims to promotion. At the time of writing, just over €700,000 has been raised by the ‘Defiende al Eibar’ movement, with a little over two months for the Basque club to reach their €1.75m target for ascension.
As Ipurua’s support spilled onto the field of play after Eibar’s 1-0 victory over Alaves which confirmed promotion, the scenes of joy showed little of the situation beneath the surface. The players led the chants and dancing from the stands and it was the fans’ turn to get involved on the pitch, bouncing around with dreams of travelling to the likes of Santiago Bernabeu and Camp Nou next season surely filling their minds. It would be nothing less than a travesty to deny them.
You can donate to Eibar’s promotion cause here: http://www.defiendealeibar.com/