Do you want to own a (very small part of a) football club?

Posted on November 9, 2012 10:14 pm

Real Oviedo are a team based in Oviedo, which is in the Asturias region of Spain. They are a team with a proud history, having spent a total of 38 seasons in La Liga in their history, which after a succession of owners who have ran the club into the ground, find themselves in the Segunda B, which is the third tier of Spanish league football, and are on the brink of oblivion.

Real Oviedo are in deep financial trouble. They need to raise almost €2m by November 17th or they will go out of business.

However, they are not going to go quietly; in an effort to raise the money they need to stay afloat, Real Oviedo are offering people the chance to buy shares in the club. A statement on the club website says:

“Now, Real Oviedo tries to avoid its nemesis and November 17th is the deadline, the supporters try to prevent their beloved club from uttering its swansong. Please, step ahead and become a hero: contribute to Real Oviedo’s dreams of a better future to come by buying even just a single share. As this traditional supporters’ chant goes ‘We shall be back in First Division, once again’”

Real Oviedo were formed in 1926 and reached La Liga seven years later, and introduced a style of football that was revolutionary for the time. Oviedo played a one-touch, short passing, fast-paced style of football, which was a sort of tiki-taka before it’s time. Oviedo’s attacking quartet became known as the delanteras electricas (the electric forwards) and Isidro Langara won the pichichi (top scorer award) for three seasons running.

Real Oviedo looked poised for greatness, but instead, the team was broken up upon the advent of the Spanish Civil War, with some players emigrating and most of the delanteras electricas being sold to other clubs. Oviedo were summarily relegated for the tenuous reason of having an unsuitable pitch, with the real reason suspected to be that many of the Oviedo players had toured Europe raising money for the Republican war effort.

For many years afterwards, Real Oviedo bounced between the divisions before being able to sustain a spell in the Primera División for 13 seasons, claiming some big scalps along the way. This run in the top-flight ended when they were relegated by a single point in 2001. The following season, they were relegated again, but because of a dispute with the players union over unpaid wages, they actually were demoted down to the tercera, the Spanish fourth tier.

Since then, Oviedo have been stuck in the Segunda B, following another set of owners that started spending money they didn’t have, plunging the club into the parlous financial state it’s currently in.

The campaign to save Real Oviedo really clicked into gear when English journalist Sid Lowe, who is based in Spain and an Oviedo fan, promoted the idea of buying shares on Twitter, and #SOSRealOviedo started trending. In fact, it took off to the point where the club had to set up a way of buying shares via PayPal in order to deal with the demand.

Today, the club announced that so far over 6,000 people have bought shares, raising €600k so far (if my Spanish is correct!) and are off to a good start in raising enough money to survive.

Some former players have put their hands in their pockets too. EPL players Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla and Michu are all former Real Oviedo players and have all bought shares. Michu said

“We just wanted to try to help save the club we all played for, Myself, Mata and Cazorla have all bought shares, but it would be wrong of me to say how much.

‘A lot of people have bought shares and hopefully it will be enough by the closing date of November 17. It’s my local club, a club I love, so I hope it will be enough”

I should point out that nobody should be looking at this as some sort of investment opportunity; the chances of you ever seeing your money again are slim to none and the chances of actually making any money out of this are even less than that. It’s basically a donation.

But, if you did buy a share, you would be able to say that you own a piece of a football team, albeit a very small piece, so at least there’s something tangible that sets this apart from a regular donation. Also, as a token of their gratitude for anyone stepping up to try and save the club, all new shareholders outside of Spain can attend Oviedo home games for free from now on.

One of the concerns I had when I heard about this was that new shareholders may end up being liable for the debts currently on the club, but Real Oviedo have assured everyone that that is not the case, nor would any new shareholder be liable for future debts, as the current board of directors have all the liability.

Of course, having thousands of people buying shares in the club is just a short-term fix; if they survive, Real Oviedo would need an owner to be viable in the long-term. The club has suffered badly from financial mismanagement in the past, but what makes things a little different this time is that, for the first time, the fans will have a major say in how the club is run, and hopefully having people who love the club in that position will be able to prevent some of the financial excesses that has driven Real Oviedo to the brink.

If you want to get involved and have a bit of money to spare, shares sell for €11.50 each (£9 or USD14.60) on PayPal, and you can get them here (the site is in English).

I believe clubs like Real Oviedo are the lifeblood of football and need to be preserved. Real Oviedo have given a lot to Spanish football over the years, with the current Spanish team employing tactics that have their roots in the Oviedo side of the 1930’s.

It is not just the local fanbase which would suffer either. Real Oviedo enjoy by far the largest attendances in the Segunda B, and a stadium that many clubs in the Primera division would love to have. The game as a whole suffers when a club like this goes out of existence. It is clubs like Oviedo where the stars of tomorrow develop and without them, the game is much poorer.

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