Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Spanish Football For Beginners....The Recovery Of The Pelotazo

When I wrote about the complexities of the pelotazo a few months ago, I mentioned Atlético Madrid as being one of the clubs most interested in using this new tactical manoeuvre that is revolutionising the modern game here in Spain. Well the last few days have confirmed this as plans have been announced for the club to leave its current stadium, and for massive redevelopment to take place on the site it currently occupies.

The idea is that Atleti will get as a new stadium La Peineta, situated on the other side of the city from their current home, the Vicente Calderón. The catch is that the new stadium must be substantially refurbished and that this will be paid for out of the profits of the pelotazo, and it will not become their property before 2016. Now what is the significance behind the choice of that year? Well, having failed to get the 2012 Olympics, the city administration now hopes to be a candidate for the 2016 games. Given that the city budget is more or less used up for the next few years thanks to the burial of the M-30 ring road, the idea that Atleti pay to refurbish La Peineta as their new 70000 seat stadium means that Madrid does not need to bear the cost of an Olympic stadium should the city be unfortunate enough to be offered the games.

The pelotazo gets ever more complicated, and that is before we mention the brewers. It's not just the Vicente Calderón that is involved in this huge redevelopment; a sizable part of the land involved belongs to the Mahou beer company and was the site of their old factory. When they moved to a new installation outside of the city they annoyed the regional government of Madrid by placing the new factory just over the border in the autonomous region of Castilla La Mancha. So for years they have been unable to do anything to redevelop the old site, worth a fortune given its proximity to the centre of the city. As part of the deal, they will have to make a contribution, along with Atleti, to the burying of the stretch of the M-30 that currently runs under one side of the Vicente Calderón. In return Mahou are guaranteed a fortune from development of their property.

I read the other day that the club has a debt of 400 million euros, which if true is an incredible figure for a club with the support they have and with the amount of money that is floating around in the game these days. The officially admitted debt is around 130 million which is still not bad going. It is of course be a tribute to the magnificent way in which the club has been run by the Gil family, whose other most notable success was the conversion of Marbella into the most corrupt municipality in the country. Perhaps not surprisingly, Marbella is also heavily in debt. The simple fact is that the club is run as a private affair, and that is what separates this deal from the one which Real Madrid achieved. Of the 250 million euros which the club could potentially receive from the deal, about 90% will soon disappear as part of the continual revolving door at the club where money enters and promptly exits through the other side. Between the cost of the new stadium, the development carried out at the old site, and the contribution to burying the M-30, the club itself will see virtually nothing out of it all. Not that this will worry the current owners in any way, the club belongs to a property company and evidence is already emerging of links between their directors and the companies who will receive all of this money.

So it goes without saying that we are not about to see a new era of galacticos at the club, despite the fact that they have been spending quite heavily this summer. Real Madrid were able to use the pelotazo to wipe out their debt completely, it looks like Atlético could redevelop half of the city and still not achieve a similar objective. Their long suffering supporters can make the long trek to San Blas from 2010 onwards, and reflect on a deal which gives them a hugely expensive new stadium that they neither asked for nor needed. The whole deal seems to sum up the way in which both club and city work these days, with a project that only benefits a tiny group of already wealthy people. No wonder it plays such an important part in today’s game; ¡viva el pelotazo!

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