“Without clubs there are no Mireias”

The basketball players of Sant Adrià, a Women's League team 2. / JUAN BARBOSA

Spanish sports clubs are beginning to conceive hopes of reactivation after a whole year of trouble, trying to avoid the paralysis and disruption caused by the effects of the pandemic. The ravages are difficult to assess. In Spain there are 66,000 clubs with endless peculiarities and conditions. A study by the Higher Sports Council (CSD) predicted in June that the impact of the pandemic would cause losses of 4,600 million to Spanish sports and a fall in income of 38.5%. Anxiety has affected the day to day, the most elemental: knowing if there was a court or pool available to compete or even train. Some have had to resign from a category, almost all reduce their budgets, by a proportion of between 20 and 30%, many have barely kept up the activity, and most of those who participate in regional tournaments have not been able to compete. or start doing it now. In several clubs, members and users of the facilities coexist with elite athletes.

Those clubs are the ones that detect, develop and, often, protect the Olympic and world champions, the Mireia Belmonte, Carolina Marín, Saúl Craviotto or Lydia Valentín on duty. Most of these clubs, 332 of the most prominent through an Association (ACEDYR), have requested measures to mitigate economic damage such as the reduction of federative fees, VAT deductions, personal income tax deductions or a Patronage Law. “The clubs are the ones that pull the car,” sums up Ricardo Camacho, the president of Canoe, one of the standard entities that make the base compatible with some elite athletes and that has, in his case, 700 athletes and almost 6,000 members , 600 less than when the pandemic began.

The Club Natació Sabadell is named after some of the greatest successes in the history of Spanish sport, from the world and Olympic medals of Martín López Zubero, those of Ona Carbonell and the water polo teams, passing through some of those of Mireia Belmonte or that of a forerunner like Miquel Torres, the first Spanish swimmer to win a medal in some Europeans, the silver one in 1962. The club, founded in 1916 as a result of the entrepreneurial and associative spirit of the citizens, boasts of having inaugurated the first freshwater pool in Spain, in June 1918, and having survived the difficulties of war, dictatorship and previous economic crises. Its activity is frenetic, with 20 sports sections, financed and promoted by thousands of members and users who share the facilities and the origin of the brand with the champions.

Now, like everyone else, he tries to weather the scourge of the pandemic and its consequences. “This era is going to change the way of seeing and understanding sport, of how the clubs are capable of managing, and not only in the economic aspect,” says its president, Claudi Martí. For him, the hardest thing in the last year was when he had to ask the 250 club workers an average salary cut of 15%. There was no alternative due to restrictions on the use of the facilities, the loss of 7,000 of its 27,000 members and the drop in income, from 13 to 10.5 million euros.

“One of the things that I hope this crisis will add more value is the work that the clubs do, not so much because of the titles that we win or because of the athletes that we get to compete in some Games, but because of the work that we carry out in the training of all athletes ”, claims Martí.

The club’s board of directors drew up a three-year plan. It has reduced the price of the membership fees, has optimized the facilities and pools to the maximum to adapt to the maximum 30% capacity that has been allowed for many months, segregating the spaces used by elite athletes and members to greater security of all, and has started a micro-patronage campaign with the aim of attracting 250,000 euros to compensate for the decrease in income and allow it to continue financing its quarry work with 800,000 euros.

“We have reinvented. I would never have imagined that many members would have to do weights at six in the morning in the open air in the middle of winter ”, explains the president of the Vallesano club. “And the national leagues are being played, except in March. We have opened the Olympic pools only for water polo players [cinco veces campeonas de Europa y base de la selección española]. It is an effort of the clubs that we are not recognized. If we do not have clubs, we do not have federations, we will not have Council [Superior de Deportes], nor will we have Games. That should be understood by everyone. It is not demagoguery. If you want to be able to help a Mireia Belmonte or a women’s water polo team with direct help or in training, you can do so as long as you have a Mireia of 10 or 11 years old. And a Mireia of 10, 11, 12 years old you will never have it in a CAR [Centro de Alto Rendimiento] but in the swimming club this or that. It is thus, that is the reality ”. Several entities advocate a plan to help clubs with Olympic athletes similar to the ADO, the plan that reactivated Spanish sport since the 1992 Games.

The best quarry in Spanish women’s basketball is purple, the one used for the Sant Adrià Women’s team jerseys. This is supported by the ranking prepared in 2019 by the Spanish Basketball Federation (FEB) based on the results obtained by the children’s teams, cadets and juniors in the four previous seasons. His first team, Snatt’s San Adrià, played in the highest division, the Endesa League, in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons. She was relegated but, as leader of one of the groups in Women’s League 2 when the competition was canceled due to the virus, she won the right to compete again in the Endesa League. That happened already in the middle of the pandemic, and he had to give up the promotion. The budget of the team in League 2 is about 60,000 euros and to compete in the highest category it needed 200,000. “There was some company interested in sponsoring us, but at that time, without an audience, with the uncertainty that existed, it was impossible to assume the expense of playing in the Endesa League”, says Pepe Aneas, president of the club since 1998. Despite the fact that already has reached the elite, Sant Adrià, like most non-professional clubs, is a modest entity, with very limited resources, financed based on the fees paid by the athletes’ families, which amount to more than 600 euros per year, some sponsor and few institutional aid.

It has 17 teams and a sports school where girls start from the age of five and compete from the age of eight. “One of the most traumatic effects has been the stoppage in activity. It has had a very big impact on the players and coaches. They are very competitive and the break has affected them a lot on a mental level. The families are very burned ”, assures Aneas. Economically, the withdrawal of some small sponsors and the reduction of the fees paid by the players, due to inactivity, has caused a deviation of about 25,000 euros on a budget of 272,000. “Help? Zero patatero. Not a detail ”, laments Aneas. “The Generalitat announced a series of grants, but they were for gyms. They offered us a possibility of financing through the Catalan Institute of Finance, but it is a loan. We were not interested ”.

The players of the Santander Rugby Club were finalizing in mid-October the set-up to play their second season in the Division of Honor A, when on the last business day for the club to formalize their registration they had to resign to the highest category. His sponsor, Bathco, did not contribute the agreed amount, the club could not have the 20,000 euros it needed to face the season and the illusion of the Cantabrian team to continue in the elite vanished. The Federation punished the team with the reduction of two categories, a penalty of 12,360 euros and the prohibition to play in the Division of Honor during the next two seasons. “The sanction is unfair,” says Juan Gómez, the president of the Santander Rugby Club. “They didn’t give us time to react, they left us without the ability to maneuver. In any case, the federation did not lose the registration since another team [Les Abelles de Valencia] he occupied our place and we did not cause any harm to anyone ”.

The Santander Rugby Club was created in 2007 with a clear educational vocation. The entity had 180 players and 17 coaches who competed in nine categories. The first team was promoted to the highest category, the Division of Honor A in the 2018-2019 season. In October 2019 he played the first Cantabrian derby in the history of the competition, against Independiente. “The club continues with a very limited activity,” explains Gómez. “The first team should play in regional competition, but due to the pandemic it has not been played. Nor has it been possible to train in groups of more than six. The budget is very modest and is covered with the annual grant from the City Council ”. His is, like so many others, a reflection of the new reality for modest clubs at the time of the pandemic.

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