Racing Santander’s problems have drawn widespread attention in Spain following pandemonium at Wednesday night’s 1-1 Copa del Rey last 16 first-leg draw with Almeria.
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Racing players began the game by standing motionless for the first 20 seconds, not making any effort to chase their opponents, as a protest at not having been paid since September 2013.
The drama continued in the stands, where a group of ‘ultras’ attempted to invade the directors’ box to get to club president Angel ‘Harry’ Lavin, before police intervened.
Such protests have been a regular occurrence at El Sardinero in recent months and years, with the club in turmoil following a disastrous takeover in January 2011 by supposed “Indian entrepreneur” Ali Syed, who turned out to be fraudster on the run from Interpol.
Spanish players union AFE released a statement on Wednesday giving details of their members’ plight.
“As of today, the players are owed their monthly wages for October, November and December,” the statement read. “The current directors of the club have broken promises to pay a part of the money owed to the squad three times. Don Angel Lavin, current president of Real Racing Club de Santander SAD, both in public statements and private meetings, promised to pay what was owed by Dec. 21, 2013, but that has not happened.”
Syed was widely welcomed in Santander in January 2011 when he was invited in by former Racing president Manuel Pernia, with talk of investing 90 million euros and building a club capable of challenging Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Such talk quickly turned out to be false, and Racing have since been relegated twice in succession, received a controversial bailout from the Cantabrian regional government, and remain in danger of going out of business completely with debts of over 50 million euros.
Meanwhile, criminal proceedings have been launched against both Syed and Pernia, who is reported to remain in control of the club. Figures obtained by local media in Santander appeared to show that the club paid almost 500,000 euros to agents last year, as four different first-team coaches were tried but the team was still relegated.
This year’s Copa run has proved a rare source of positivity for Racing’s players and fans, with Sevilla surprisingly seen off in the previous round. The money generated was supposed to go towards paying wages owed, but it appears that has not taken place.