THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

New president and board brought in

icon nofans12 February ~ Racing Santander received national publicity during their Copa del Rey match with Almería on January 8 when their players stood still for 15 seconds in protest against not being paid by club president Ángel Lavín. During their game against Real Sociedad in the next round they decided not to play at all unless the president resigned. Fans, players, club staff, local politicians and media were united against Lavín and the board, not least when it emerged that first-class tickets had been purchased and luxury cars rented for the directors' use at the club's expense, when they claimed they didn't have money to pay wages.

Racing's president may have thought the players weren't capable of throwing away one of the most important matches in the club's history. He was wrong, though. The team made it to the stadium, where 4,000 fans and the president of the Spanish players' association were backing them. They warmed up as usual, but when the game was supposed to start, they stood in the middle of the pitch in a huddle, while the Real Sociedad players passed the ball to each other. The referee then abandoned the game after talking to Racing's captain. After that, the players made one of the strangest laps of honour in football history to thank the fans for their support.

Racing were disqualified and now face a €3,000 (£2,487) fine and a one-year ban from playing the Copa del Rey, but the players and fans had earned the entire country's respect and sympathy. Daily sports newspaper AS called it a "civic insurrection", while Marca asked for the ban's reprieve due to the special circumstances. Even foreign papers such as the New York Times and the Italian Gazzetta dello Sport covered the story.

Once Lavín made it clear that he wasn't going anywhere, the next step was to convince the owners who put him in charge, WGA Sports Holding, to take action. The administrator Onur Oslan set up an extraordinary shareholders meeting at Racing's ground, El Sardinero. The board tried to stop the event but stadium staff let all the fans in, including those who didn't have any shares, and a takeover was underway

Backed by court documents, Oslan was able to dismiss the current board and designate a new one made up of local personalities close to the club. Former Racing defender "Tuto" Sañudo was appointed president, with TV presenter Félix Álvarez vice-president and two other former players – Paco Liaño and Pedro Alba – also involved. One of the things the new board is attempting to do is to capitalise on excitement among the fans and boost their attendances until the end of the season. The club had 5,002 season-ticket holders when Sañudo acquired the presidency last week, but the aim is to double that number through the slogan "Do you want to come back?".

In the first two days of the campaign, they sold 1,500 tickets for the eight remaining games of the season in the third level Segunda B, and what is expected to be play-offs for promotion to the second division. On top of that, 15,000 fans gathered in El Sardinero for the first game of the new era against Cultural Leonesa on February 2 to show support to the new president. The club need good management now to overcome years of negligence, but the worst part is over and Racing seem back on track. Antonio Mateo

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