Elche CF 0 – 2 Real Oviedo ……. By Kevin Rendall
On the face of it a nil-two defeat against play-off chasing Oviedo can’t have come as much of a surprise for fans of shell shocked Elche. For long periods especially in a dire first half, it was difficult to tell top from bottom. The visitors eventually prevailed courtesy of two well taken second half goals which, although they were unaware, would count for nothing in the final analysis because promotion rivals Huesca and Valladolid also won.
Watched by the lowest Martínez Valero crowd I can recall in ten years of visiting the stadium, 2,602 fans collectively contributed to a sour atmosphere inside the ground. Planned protests took place and were pathetic as they were pointless, with chants directed at the VIP seats spontaneously erupting throughout the game. The bottom line is Elche, in a purely sporting sense, are the architects of their own downfall; ten defeats in their final twelve matches tell its own story.
Today, though, the football was almost incidental. Obliged to fulfil their fixtures, Elche did so against a background of institutional turmoil at the football club from which no-one emerges with any credit. Deeply unpopular amongst fans throughout the city, Elche president Diego García – widely, and with good reason, believed to be the proxy of reviled ex-president José Sepulcre – was the target of much of today’s invective and it is easy to understand why.
García has been the driving force behind a legal action designed to prevent the sale of the club to Qatari group Skyline International who, as far back as August 2016, had agreed in principle a deal to purchase the equity of majority shareholder the Valencian Finance Institute. With that agreement, and its desperately needed investment, paralysed, the club lurched from crisis to crisis, aided and abetted by dismal performances on the pitch, culminating in relegation to Spain’s Segunda B division.
Consigned to the third tier of Spanish football, the consequent loss of income will hit the club hard. Just down the road in Alicante, Hercules made the same La Liga to Segunda B journey and are now a football club on life support. The saving graces for Elche CF are twofold; the fans who, whilst awful tonight, are desperate for the club to survive and have dug deep before and that Skyline takeover. If that can be revived, albeit on vastly reduced terms commensurate with Elche’s 2B status, the club may have a fighting chance.
Opposition to the dark spectre of Sepulcre and his placeman García is growing but the pair present a formidable obstacle. Sepulcre, whose financial incompetence was the root cause of the club’s enforced departure from La Liga, is now angling to purchase the debt of prominent creditors which the club intend to convert to equity, meaning, somewhat astonishingly, he will inveigle his way back into control of the club. Off the pitch, Elche CF is about to embark, once again, on another ‘Machiavellian’ summer, the course of which may well decide the club’s very existence.