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Why Granada’s survival is good for football in La Liga
- Updated: 16 May, 2012
Denis Doyle/Getty Images Europe
Sunday 26 February 2006. The first time I watched Granada CF in action. It was an away trip at CD Loja and as I lived only a short ten minute drive away, I decided to sample lower league Spanish football for the first time.
I knew little about the history of either team, but chatting with some of the locals, I quickly discovered that Granada CF had once been amongst the Spanish elite early in their history during the 1940’s. They had then mostly been amongst the better Segunda sides, before enjoying their longest spell in the top flight during the 60’s and 70’s, even reaching a cup final against Barcelona.
How could it be then, that I was watching this club playing against a provincial rival, in the fourth tier of Spanish football, in front of around 500 fans at Loja? Interest piqued, I enquired more…
Having suffered relegation from the Primera at the end of the 1975/1976 season, the club would spend the next decade or so they would flip between the Segunda and Segunda B with regularity, before falling to the third tier once more and staying there for some fourteen years.
Things didn’t improve early in the new millennium and after considerable financial problems, they were demoted to the fourth tier, the Tercera. During their darkest days, they spent four seasons at this level.
My first match in attendance, CD Loja beat Granada CF 3-1 and having learned quite a lot from the locals, I decided to find out more and started attending games regularly. Granada managed to clinch top spot in Tercera Group 9 on the final day, for the first time that season, with a 3-0 home win against RUD Carolinense. The third goal was scored by Manuel Lucena. Few, not least he, could perhaps have dreamed of the story that would unfold during the following years.
Fast forward to Sunday 13th May 2012. Final day of the season and an encounter between Rayo Vallecano de Madrid and Granada CF. This time the stakes were somewhat different. This was a tie between two teams fighting for their survival, in the Primera, amongst the elite of Spanish football.
Rayo would win the game at the death to clinch their survival, but aided an Atlético Madrid win at Villarreal – news of which quickly spread to Vallecas – the Granada players, officials and fans, were celebrating survival and the culmination of an amazing journey. Amongst the the Granada players, one Manuel Lucena, now club captain. What a remarkable personal journey it had been for him.
Italian investment, a clean slate, superb management. The club, rose from the third tier to the Primera via consecutive promotions, then against all the odds and predictions, survived there.
Last night in Granada, the club and fans celebrated at their home stadium of Nuevo Los Cármenes. Fans singing the club anthem, lifting the players aloft and fireworks, you would have thought they’d just won a trophy. Evidence of just how much what has been achieved meant to everyone involved with the club.
Why is this good news and an inspirational message for La Liga then?
Well, here we have an extremely well run club that has made a fantastic journey from the depths of obscurity, to rub shoulders with the best. Following a financial model that’s seen them maintain spending within their means, they’ve become one of the most solvent clubs in the country. Now debt free and running healthy profits, they’ve also enjoyed home attendances of over 95% capacity this season. The highest percentage of capacity crowds in Spain this season.
Around ten thousand Granada fans travelled to watch their team play at Real Madrid. A record number of away fans at Santiago Bernabéu in La Liga. When tickets and allocations have allowed throughout the season, hundreds and thousands have travelled to cheer for their team, throughout the country. Few clubs can boast such a strong travelling following.
Culmination of a dream, or just the end of the beginning? Through wise financial management, careful and considered transfer and wage spending, investment in developing a rapidly improving youth system, building bridges and affiliate relationships with clubs in Spain and abroad, embracing the passion of a strong supporter base that’s suffered for decades… This club has proven in the midst of a league and culture of severe debt, irresponsible mismanagement of clubs and rumours of “foul play” and corruption, there is “another” way to do things.
Nobody is squeaky clean though and they have courted controversy. Club president Quique Pina, along with various players and staff, have made their thoughts, feelings and suspicions heard, on numerous occasions this season. Most notable was the war of words between Quique Pina and Zaragoza president Agapito Iglesias. There have also been suggestions of injustice, regarding the different treatment they feel they’ve received at various points during the season, compared to “bigger” clubs. Events after the Real Madrid match did little to aid the image of the club elsewhere though.
Given the work done at Granada, both on and off the pitch, it’s perhaps understandable that in the face of a variety of obstacles ever facing them, they can perhaps justify their indignation when circumstances and situations have been thrown at them. They’ve worked extremely hard and battled at every level, to get where they are.
They’ve fought bigger opponents every match they’ve played, they’ve challenged the “fairness” of decisions against them (often successfully), stood alongside those seeking a fairer distribution of TV rights and income, plus the directors have worked tirelessly in the face of local political issues, to gain improvements to the stadium and training facilities.
Every sign is there that the club will keep working hard to grow and improve further. Whilst club president Quique Pina looks set to step aside and take a break, he won’t be severing ties completely, nor will the investors, who remain fully committed. They’ve built a very solid platform that with continued efforts and wise management, can take the club much further.
What’s happened at Granada CF is a shining example of what can be done.
For me personally, embarking on this journey several years ago, following a club that had some history, but little else going for it, has been a fantastic journey. Seeing the passion and devotion of the fans, matched by those running Granada CF in recent years, has been a refreshing experience.
I genuinely believe that La Liga is all the better with a club like Granada CF amongst its ranks. Were more clubs and perhaps more importantly, those running them, to follow their example, La Liga and many of its clubs might be in much better shape.Follow @icentrocampista