What Athletic Club Socios Are Looking For In A Presidential Candidate
The candidates are in, the dates are set, and voting will officially take place on 27 December to decide who will be the next President of Athletic Club de Bilbao. There’s just one thing missing right now – the details. Both Alberto Uribe-Echevarría and Aitor Elizegi are working to formalize their Board of Directors and will soon be presenting their teams, ideas, and vision for Athletic with the public.
With less than a month until voting is scheduled to take place Socios won’t have much time to make a decision. In the coming weeks those eligible to vote will be analyzing the platform of both candidates and everyone will be looking for specific things that they think are important for the future of the club. While each person will have their own thoughts and opinions there are a few general topics that Athletic Club Socios are looking for in a Presidential candidate.
Protecting The Club’s Identity
At the end of the day, and above all else, protecting the identity of Athletic is the most important aspect of any Presidential candidate’s platform. No matter what alterations, additions, or changes a candidate is looking to make the Socios and fans do not want to see the club’s identity touched. It is the essence of Athletic.
From the Basque player policy to Lezama the Athletic fans have immense pride in the club’s identity. It is what sets the Zurigorri apart from everyone else and makes Athletic unique in the world of football. If either candidate shows the desire to alter anything that would change the club’s identity, which isn’t expected, it would likely be the end of the candidacy.
Lezama has always been the pillar on which Athletic stands. The club’s focus on and prioritization of youth development is second to none in the world of football and that should continue moving forward. Athletic is constantly putting money into growing, strengthening, and improving Lezama and that is something that Socios and fans certainly want to see remain. Like altering the identity, shifting focus away from Lezama would not end well for a Presidential candidate.
Supporting the youth academy is very important, although it isn’t the only part of prioritizing Lezama. Socios want to see Athletic continue to build the first team with players raised at Lezama and never shy away from giving chances to young stars. At the same time, many Socios are also hoping to see more former players join the coaching ranks and use their experience to help instill knowledge, passion, dedication, and loyalty to the club in the young players attending the academy.
The Grada De Animación
The Grada de Animación is a very emotional and special part of football. In essence, it is the seating directly behind the goal that is generally sold at very affordable prices or reserved for Socios and members of club Peñas. Fans in the section normally bring flags, banners, and Tifos to show their passion and support during the game while also singing and sometimes using choreography. This helped to create a fantastic atmosphere at the old San Mamés and fans want it back.
Athletic fans have not been happy with how the club has basically taken away the Grada de Animación. Under Josu Urrutia the tickets for seats in that section have been sold at an extremely high price with VIPs often being the ones to purchase them. The club has also severely limited fans from being able to bring banners and things like that because they often cover up or block sponsorships. These changes were made to help Athletic bring in far more income, but Socios have been extremely vocal about their desire to see the return of the Grada de Animación.
Making Key Transfer Signings
Athletic aspires to be competitive every season and challenge for European tournaments. For that to happen the club is always looking to bring in top players from outside and Socios will want to see candidates target a few exciting transfers if they win the Presidency. It is common for those running to promise certain signings and, although those transfers can’t be guaranteed, it does appeal to voters who want the club to at least pursue players who could improve the team.
There are several names that could be subject to candidacy platforms. Fernando Llorente and Ander Herrera are two of the most established Basque players that will likely receive attention as is Ibai Gómez who fans would love to see return to the San Mamés. Other targets could come to light over the next few weeks, but if a candidate can truly make a big signing happen it would go a long way towards winning him votes.
An International Approach To Marketing
Athletic is, and always will be, a family. The club is the heart and soul of Bilbao and most of the players that reach the first team grow up as kids in the local neighborhoods were everybody knows one another. In a small region like the Basque Country there is a heavy focus on the community aspect of life and that has certainly carried over to Athletic where there’s a focus placed on the club representing the Basque people of the area.
That being said, it is also important for the club to be established on the international level. Athletic has long been behind even smaller clubs when it comes to things like marketing and social media which is something that many Socios would like to see improved. The goal will always be for the Zurigorri to be a club of the people, but generating support around the world will also add value in many other areas as well.
Continued Growth Of The Women’s Game
Athletic has been one of the pioneering clubs for the Women’s game. From establishing their Femenino team to creating youth squads for girls the Basques have developed an interest and belief in the Women’s football for those in and around the area. They’ve made it a priority to build on the project and Socios really want to see that continue to be a focus.
Some fans have gone as far to verbalize their desire for specific approaches to developing Women’s football such as creating more youth teams, training additional coaches, and setting a standard for wages that more closely resembles the men’s team. With all the fantastic work that Athletic has done over the years Presidential candidates will be asked about their ideas and vision for continued progress in this areas.
Balancing Financial Strength And Sporting Success
Finding a way to balance a responsible approach to the financial aspect of the club with success on the field is one of the most difficult parts of being the President of a football club. Athletic have prospered in both areas under Josu Urrutia and the hope is that it will continue with whoever wins the Presidency in December. Doing both while prioritizing the fans will be the ultimate goal.
Socios have been outspoken about their desire to see the club find more ways to generate its own income instead of relying so much on television money. At the same time many want to see ticket prices lowered, especially for younger fans. Athletic supporters have been proud of the financial strength that has been built under Urrutia and don’t want to see the club become fiscally irresponsible or take on debt.
While that is the case Socios also don’t want the club to operate with a closed checkbook by refusing to properly pay star players or pursue top transfer targets. Finding a way to balance both areas is never easy and those who will be voting are sure to analyze the platforms of the candidates to see how they will approach finances and success on the field. It’s clear that there will be many things that Socios will be looking for in a Presidential candidate and those ideas and visions are expected to be shared with the public in the days to come.