Jose Maria del Nido has resigned as Sevilla president after being convicted of fraud, while continuing to protest both his innocence and his pride in his achievements during almost 12 years in charge at the Liga club.
Del Nido is leaving having been condemned to seven years in jail for the misappropriation of almost three million euros in public money while he worked for Marbella’s town hall between 1999 and 2003.
The original sentence was handed out in December 2011, however, Del Nido remained as club chief for almost two years while the decision was appealed unsuccessfully as far as Spain’s Supreme Court.
He confirmed his resignation to a packed news conference on Monday morning, while maintaining that he had really done little wrong.
“The day we hoped would never come has arrived,” Del Nido said. “I am leaving with profound sadness. I have resigned and am no longer connected to the club. This stains my image, but people are intelligent. I have very few stains and no serious ones as president of the club.”
Although reports in Spain suggest only an unlikely official pardon can stop him from serving the term decided by the country’s Supreme Court, the lawyer said he would continue to fight to avoid going to jail.
“I have worked until the last minute for Sevilla,” he said. “Now I am focusing on defending myself. There are legal mechanisms to avoid prison. I would not be the first person pardoned by the government in recent centuries. If I have to go to prison, I will do it with strength and dignity.”
Del Nido has been connected to Sevilla since 1986, and took over as president in 2002. The club then won the UEFA Cup, Copa del Rey, Spanish Supercopa and European Super Cup trophies under his guidance.
However, recent seasons have been less successful, and key players such as Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo and Gary Medel were sold last summer with the club over 100 million euros in debt and struggling to pay their players and bills.
“In my first speech I said I would bring back pride in the Rojiblanco colours,” Del Nido said. “I believe I have fulfilled the most optimistic hopes for the club. I have made many mistakes, but I always took decisions based on what was best for Sevilla.”
Current vice-president Pepe Castro will step up for the moment until a new president is chosen, while Del Nido also appeared to confirm reports that his close ally and ex-club director general, Jose Maria Cruz, is to return as a board member, and his son, Jose Maria del Nido Carrasco, will also have a role to play in Sevilla’s future.
“Pepe Castro will take on my post until the vote takes place,” Del Nido said. “I hope the new president gets the same loyalty, affection, dedication and commitment. My sons will take on the roles at Sevilla which the new president assigns to them. The six are Sevilla socios since they were born.”
Del Nido finished his statement with a startling cry which was returned by many of those in attendance: "Shout with me: Viva el Sevilla, viva el Sevilla, viva el Sevilla!”
The news conference room at the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan was packed, with those attending including family members, journalists, current and former Sevilla directors, coaches and club figures. The team’s current players, coach Unai Emery, and sporting director Monchi were also there.
Sevilla supporters -- including some from the ‘Biris’ ultras group -- meanwhile gathered outside the stadium with placards demonstrating their happiness that Del Nido is finally leaving.