Absent owner finally agrees to sell
23 May ~ In 2008 Racing Santander beat Manchester City 3-1 in the UEFA Cup group stages, narrowly missing out on qualification to the knockout rounds; now they are on the brink of successive relegations. Los Racinguistas are two points from safety with only three games remaining of the campaign, although back-to-back wins in their last two matches will have given them some hope of avoiding the drop to Segunda División B. They now face three huge games, starting at home against fellow relegation battlers Guadalajara on Sunday.
Despite being a club of fairly modest size, with a stadium that only holds 22,000 people, Racing have been in La Liga for most of their recent history and have only dropped below the second tier of Spanish football once since 1970. Should they be relegated to Segunda División B, it would complete a dire few seasons for the club on and off the pitch.
When Indian businessman Ahsan Ali Syed took over the club in January 2011, he talked of big signings and competing with Barcelona and Real Madrid. What has actually happened could not be further from that. The fact that Ali Syed previously had a takeover bid for Blackburn Rovers blocked, before the notorious Venky's arrived, probably tells you enough about the man.
Soon after buying Racing, he heard that Interpol were investigating him and he has barely been seen in Spain since. Roberto Bedoya, the club's long-serving general director, had to take out a loan to fulfil their monthly debt repayments. Players went unpaid and then, in the summer of 2011, eight of them left along with the manager. Racing were declared bankrupt and administrators took over, with Ali Syed nowhere to be seen.
Relegation from La Liga followed in the 2011-12 season, as attendances at their El Sardinero stadium steadily decreased. To add to the farce, Santander have had eight different managers during Ali Syed's three-and-a-half-year "reign". Earlier this month, Ali Syed finally agreed to give up his 99.89 per cent stake in the club, allowing a new owner to take over. Who that person will be, and what league Racing will be in next season, remain to be seen. Sadly, Santander's story will sound all too familiar for fans in Britain. Joseph Rutter