The situation is summed up by an Athletic partner: “We heard that with the Super League the clubs will be able to sign the great figures and in San Mamés or the Mestalla we can enjoy their game, but they are wrong. We want to beat Madrid or Barça, and if the figures don’t come, perfect. We have suffered from Messi for more than a decade, because he is the best, and when he is not, we breathe. In Bilbao, the spectacle that the rivals want to give does not matter to us, what we want is to beat them ”.
In Bilbao, and in the Athletic environment, the Super League is observed with fear. The rojiblanco club, one of the founders of the League and the only one together with Madrid and Barcelona that has only played in the First Division, would suddenly find themselves, together with the rest of the teams of that middle class that it symbolizes, relegated to a decaffeinated category. . “Any project that involves a closed competition is very far from our concept of football and the mentality of our fans. It is quite unnatural. From Athletic’s point of view it would have been a substantial change ”, explains Fernando García Macua, president of the club from 2008 to 2012.
Future plans threaten a very special entity, unique in the European leagues for its philosophy of having only players from the land, and which until now has survived revolutions such as the Bosman law. In the 1995-96 season, the League was played with 22 teams. In the middle of that campaign, the European justice issued a sentence in the case that allowed the free hiring of community footballers. Of those 22 teams that, from that moment on, could sign unlimited players from the rest of Europe, 18 were downgraded in subsequent years. Some have not returned. Athletic, along with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia, was one of those who followed in the First Division, although all voices pointed out that, due to his particular philosophy, he would be the most affected by the sentence. But he survived with the home players, mostly raised in Lezama, a factory that has just turned 50 years old.
The challenge is to stay up with that DNA. For the former rojiblanco player Ismael Urzaiz, “if a Super League is played, it would be a deficit for the League, and therefore, for Athletic and its earning capacity in the following years.” Athletic foresees losses of more than 42.5 million euros in two years due to the pandemic. The budget for the current season amounts to 104 million, 21% less than the previous season. Even so, the club’s situation is solid, with 76 million euros in cash.
The Bilbao club has eight leagues and 24 Cup titles, as well as 16 runners-up; He has played all the finals of the Spanish championship at home because only Recreativo surpasses him in seniority and they never met for the title. In the ranking of European clubs with the most national championships, it ranks eighth with 35. Six of the seven that precede it are or were involved in the Super League project. He has participated in European competitions 32 times. With 44,000 members and a modern stadium with capacity for 53,000 spectators, Athletic is also one of the clubs that receives the most income from television according to the distribution of LaLiga, the fifth, with 72 million euros. Their absence in European competitions in recent campaigns has the consequence that Athletic matches are the first choice for Gol TV in its free broadcast. The audience grows in each rojiblanca presence, above the average of the chain.
The club has a loyal following, which was able to move 8,000 people to Manchester for a round of 16 match in the Europa League, or 50,000 to Barcelona for the 2015 Cup final. “Real Madrid spends 700 million on its squad and Athletic, 75. If you reduce those amounts to half, the only thing that would happen is that the players would charge less, but they would play the same: Messi would continue to be Messi “, says García Macua, adding:” The approach of the Super League has forgotten a fundamental question: the sentimental element. Trying to implement a model that dispenses with that is a mistake, that is another sport ”.