Saturday, September 25

Rayo Vallecano’s war: an (empty) stadium against his board

It was the last home game of the season and the second with an audience. The 1,500 tickets, a capacity greatly reduced by the coronavirus, were sold out in half an hour. Despite the euphoria of seeing the team risking promotion, the chants in the Rayo Vallecano field, which could be heard clearly from outside, were not encouraging to the team. “Damn, go now!”, Remembers Esteban García, 40, a subscriber who did not get a ticket and was in the vicinity with his friends, looking for a screen to watch the match. ‘Presa’ is Raúl Martín Presa, president of Rayo, who ended up moving up in the category. Directors and fans have been at odds for years, and the last episode of the disagreement was the home premiere in the highest category: there were only 583 people, of the 2,000 tickets on sale.

The personalism, the lack of communication and a procedure in decision-making that is perceived as erratic weigh down the image of Presa among broad sectors of the fans, including the Federation of Peñas. Its president, Antonio Castilla, shows his indignation: “This man does not consult anything with the representative fans and does whatever he wants. He is like a dictator. It is believed that Rayo is a company, but a football club has a social part ”, he protests. The latest conflict stems from the fact that the season tickets have not been renewed yet, and the tickets for the first game were put at a fixed price of 25 euros. Only a quarter was sold.

In Rayo there are grotesque episodes for a First Division club. The players of the women’s team began the preseason without employment contracts in force, signed at the last minute after a protest by the Footballers Association and a threat of inspection by the Social Security. The club attributed the problem to the fact that those in charge of the procedure had gone on vacation without permission. Upon learning, the chief accountant resigned from the position. It was not the first time that the situation of the players attracted attention. In December 2020, the squad complained that after the game they had only been given a ham sandwich. The club said that, from a dietary point of view, the snack fit the bill.

In direct opposition to Presa is Accionistas ADRV, the platform that encompasses fans who own a minority stake in the club. This sector points out that the problems come from afar. Presa, the son of a businessman with a screen printing business, took over from the Ruiz-Mateos family in 2011, who had made the club one more card from the house of cards that proved to be their business holding. After an opaque agreement and the payment of a symbolic amount, the new manager, with the legal advice of the then lawyer Javier Tebas, today president of the League, removed the team from the bankruptcy in record time, after being promoted to First.

“They gave him the club”, ruminates Ángel Domínguez, who is suspicious that he still has a working relationship with the Jesús Fraile club, empowered with the previous directive and today pending imprisonment for not paying IRPF and Rayo VAT in several exercises of the last stage of Ruiz-Mateos. Teresa Rivero, wife of the businessman from Jerez and the predecessor of Martín Presa, is also firmly condemned. Fraile was entrusted in 2016 with the management of the restaurant located on the ground floor of the stadium.

The club has not wanted to give its opinion on the conflict with the fans. “With ‘a part’ of the fans”, only requires a spokesperson, who in any case points out that “there is nothing to say.” But it is difficult to find champions for the management team, even among those who try to be level-headed and not carry the spot, like former players. Among these, few are dearer than Jesús Diego Cota. A historic right-back, he made his debut in 1985 and retired in 2002, always at Rayo. He lived four promotions to First and, as a culmination, the classification of the team for European competition. All her life she has been linked to the neighborhood; today it is still a subscriber. Cota’s opinion is therefore informed: “Raúl has to take care of his people. Our values ​​are the quarry, the union. Vallecas has always been like this. The president is him, since the clubs became public limited companies we already know who is in charge, but you can have communication, no matter how much you go up to First. If you don’t take care of your people, your history, your quarry, in the end you are a miserable club ”.

Rigid control

“To buy a pack of folios, a bottle of paint, he has to give the go-ahead, that’s impossible,” complains Gelo Domínguez, who also points to administrative issues such as the usual delay in ticket sales, which complicate the displacements of visiting hobbies. “He is a peculiar person, who works in an archaic way. The signings, well, so that the cow continues to give milk. The rest is abandoned ”, he insists. The association denounced Presa in 2018 for managing the funds of the Rayo foundation. The case was declared complex and is still under investigation.

“Raúl is difficult to meet,” reflects Cota. “Upon arrival, I had positive ideas. I believed in him. He said that he loved Rayo, that he wanted to do important things, to work with the quarry. In the end, it has been 10 years now, there are things that it is not fulfilling as it should, ”he says. “It is complicated, it is not that I have done so badly. He has been in first place for five years, with an eighth place, he cleaned up the club, which rose as leader in Second … How is it possible that they continue to yell at him at each game? But they don’t want it. Maybe he takes things the wrong way when I say them, but I say them in good faith. Being one of the best presidents in history, he’s running it all in a way that makes me a little sad. It is incomprehensible and he has to do a self-examination ”, continues the former captain, sad to see how fans“ of a lifetime ”have turned away. “Forty or fifty years of hobby and they take off […] It bothers me and it hurts me ”, he laments.

Soccer and politics

Vallecas is a working-class neighborhood, with a strong leftist tradition, which is manifested in the team’s fans. However, at the time of the Ruiz-Mateos, recalcitrantly on the right, an entente had been reached, despite all the financial excesses. The social mass had a certain affection for Teresa Rivero, who is remembered taking the grandchildren to the stadium for the Roscón de Reyes, or taking the players around the neighborhood by bus, according to Cota recalls. With Presa, none of this has been repeated, with the aggravation of the signing of Roman Zozulia, a Ukrainian player who identified with the fascist sectors of the coup in his country in 2014. The hiring was signed, but in the face of angry protests of Bukaneros, the most radical peña, the club withdrew from the signing.

The coronavirus also gave rise to another controversy. The president’s father died last year and the club’s number two, José María Sardá, questioned the official death figures “and the political indecisions” that, according to him, were causing “serious confusion in society. ”. Months later, in the middle of the electoral campaign in Madrid, the presence in the box of leaders of the far-right Vox party set fire to spirits. Some 300 people symbolically protested by going to ‘disinfect’ the stadium, dressed in insulating suits. “It was a provocation,” summarizes Gelo Domínguez.

The Community of Madrid, owner of the Stadium, has allocated 1.7 million euros to fix it, but the works have been delayed, and the aging aspect of the venue shows that there are third-rate teams with better facilities. On the gates, accusatory graffiti: “Figureheads,” says one. “Against the farce,” cries another. On the other side of the avenue, in front of the field, there is an inn, the Moreno, where some clubs meet. In 2017, the club charged against the premises because the club’s crest was reproduced on their awnings. Today the business is owned by Tony, of Chinese origin, who does not want to hear about it. “We do not find out about that,” he justifies. On the other side of the bar, wearing a team shirt, is only Roman, talking on the phone. When he hangs up, he takes a sip of beer and ditch: “It’s the fault of the one up there.”

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