Aitor Elizegi Explains His Economic Plan For The Club And Shares His Desire To Improve The Athletic Brand Globally
As the Athletic Club Presidential elections draw ever closer Aitor Elizegi recognizes that he is working at a disadvantage. His opponent, Alberto Uribe-Echevarría helped the club build a €300 million surplus while serving as the accountant since 2011, but Elizegi technically wouldn’t have access to that money. New Boards must leave the club in the same financial situation or better when leaving office or they are held personally responsible for the difference, which means that Elizegi would theoretically be starting with nothing.
“I don’t know what has happened in the last eight years and I don’t know what he [Uribe-Echevarría] will do in the next four”, Elizegi said in a public address. “He talks every morning about the €300 million but doesn’t say anything about his project for the next four years. Are you going to accept that? Would you trust me like that?” The Presidential hopeful then stated that his team would be advocates of changing the Sporting Law of 1990, if they win the elections, so that any Socio who wants to step forward as a candidate in the future will be on a level playing field.
“To prevent this situation from happening again, our group will be advocates for trying to change the Sports Law that have regulated the club since 1990 and which have become obsolete for a professional club like Athletic”, said Fernando San José who would serve as the Secretary under Elizegi. “We want to allow each member that wants to run the club to have the same guarantees and economic tools and seek measures so that any candidates wouldn’t have to be personally responsible for economic losses. It should not be repeated that a Board can be at such a disadvantage compared to another continuist Board.”
Accountant Jon Ander de las Fuentes doesn’t shy away from the fact that the Elizegi team is at a disadvantage. “I have to say that I would be delighted, and much calmer, to be in the situation of the other group”, he said “but this was something we already knew.” That being said, he also thinks that Socios should feel safer with the responsibility that Elizegi would be under. “If you look at it from another point of view, I think that as a Socio you would be calmer with a group of people that must earn the income to use instead of a group who could lose up to €300 million over four years without consequence. This aspect sharpens the ingenuity of this candidacy.”
From there Elizegi began to explain his own plan for the club’s economics and dismissed the rumor that he has been financially supported. Above all else, he said that selling players to balance the accounts will always be the last resort no matter the circumstances.
“We have achieved our financial support through accredited financial institutions that believe in our project. We will only return it, this confidence, by achieving positive results. There are no investment funds involved. The continuist model only works if the team is constantly playing in Europe or selling players. We must have an entrepreneurial approach and balancing the budgets by selling players will be our last resort.”
The Presidential hopeful then revealed that he has a three year plans of the club’s finances as well as an eight year plan for Lezama. He wants to be transparent with the state of the club’s accounts and responsible with player contracts.
“This group has a three year economic plan, an eight year plan for Lezama, and will present new statutes for the next decade. There will be audits at the beginning and the end of each mandate that will be presented as the General Assembly with the Socios. We desire that the wages for the squad be in line with the income that these players are able to generate for the club at a sporting level.”
Elizegi explained that one of his biggest goals to improve the economic state of Athletic is to strengthen the club’s global brand. He isn’t satisfied with the fact that Athletic haven’t been able to increase their income from branding over the past few years and pointed to other clubs around Europe who have been much more successful in this area.
“We are outside of Europe’s top-20 clubs in terms of global brand, but we believe that we can be there in terms of impact. We want to improve the Athletic Brand. It doesn’t make sense to me that for seven or eight years we’ve stayed at the same level, generating €8 million, when the budget has skyrocketed to €120 million. There are other European clubs who aren’t winning, but they get much more income through these means than we do. Schalke gets 41% of their resources through branding, West Ham gets €41 million and Everton gets €30 million. It can’t be that Athletic continues with only €8 million in this area when during these years we have added 8,869 Socios, a new stadium, and are also coming from four or five great seasons under Ernesto Valverde. We must bet on our brand globally, a brand that appeals to people who are in this sport. We will try to obtain new revenues that allow us to increase both the sustainability and the solvency of the club.”
Athletic Club’s economic state has been one of the biggest topics of discussion throughout this electoral process. Alberto Uribe-Echevarría continues to defend the idea that the club is enjoying the best financial time in history, but Elizegi wants a different model to secure income and build Athletic’s brand. The Socios will be the ones who decide the future of Athletic will they cast their votes on 27 December.