Racing Santander's boycott of a Copa del Rey quarterfinal over unpaid wages caused the third-tier Spanish club to be banned from the domestic cup tournament for one season.
Racing Santander coach Paco Fernandez says his side sacrificed the opportunity to play in one of the biggest games of their lives in order to stand up for what they believed in when they refused to take part in Thursday's Copa del Rey quarterfinal second leg at home to Real Sociedad.
• Corrigan: Racing players stand up for their rights
The Racing team dramatically took to the pitch at El Sardinero, but then refused to take part in the game -- sticking to the promise made earlier in the week to strike if club president Angel “Harry” Lavin and his fellow board members did not resign.
Although the players face punishment from both the third-tier club and the Spanish football authorities, but their coach told his postmatch news conference that they had made their decision in order to stand up for the “honour” of the sport.
“It was the most important game that many of the players were ever going to play, but we have exchanged that for personal and professional dignity,” Fernandez said. “For our honour, and for the honour of football. We all thought we were going to play [that Lavin would resign], and we came to the pitch with that intention, but in the end unfortunately there was no game. We ask for the understanding of the fans, and apologise to the littlest ones. But we are not the bad guys in this film.”
Racing are currently around 50 million euros in debt, having suffered two successive relegations amid huge turmoil and legal battles off the pitch.
Fernandez said the team planned to play as normal in their Segunda B clash at home to Cultural Deportiva Leonesa on Sunday as promotion is key to the survival of the Cantabrian outfit -- who were a founder member of La Liga in 1929.
“Now the team needs to train because this week they have not been focused and we have another game this weekend.,” he said. “We will keep going as promotion is our future. We need peace at the club as quickly as possible to save the team.”
For that stance, Santander was banned from the Copa del Rey for the 2014-15 season, and the heavily indebted club also received a fine of 3,006 euros ($4,056).
Barcelona's players similarly refused to play a Copa game in April 2000, but eventually faced no punishment from the Royal Spanish Football Federation.
Sociedad progressed to the last four of this season's competition at Racing’s expense, where they will face Barcelona over two legs, with the first game at the Camp Nou next Wednesday.
A Racing shareholders' meeting took place at Friday lunchtime in Santander, when a 'unanimous vote' removed Lavin as president of the club, and installed a new board headed by former player Juan Antonio 'Tuto' Sanudo. It was not immediately clear however whether the previous regime, who did not attend the meeting, would now just step quietly aside.
Dutch lawyer Onur Aslan, who has been appointed as the judicial administrator of Ali's company Western Gulf Advisory, appears to back the new board. However Lavin has challenged the authority of Aslan to make decisions at the club and further legal action is now likely.
Real Sociedad advanced to play Barcelona in the semifinals after winning the first leg 3-1.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.