Breaking Down Alberto Uribe-Echevarría’s Athletic Club Presidential Platform
The Presidential elections are just one week away as Socios will take to the polls on 27 December to cast their vote on the future of Athletic Club. Over the past few days candidates Alberto Uribe-Echevarría and Aitor Elizegi have shared their platforms, projects, and visions for the club with the public in several interviews as they seek to gain support. On Wednesday Uribe-Echevarría officially presented a 20 page plan for his Presidency with an emphasis on Athletic’s philosophy, Lezama, and a continued dedication to financial strength.
Philosophy – Uribe-Echevarría has called for “unequivocal commitment to the philosophy”. Desires to protect the current philosophy and will listen to the thoughts of Socios and any desired alterations. Will only seek to include Basques of the diaspora if Socios ask for it. Uribe-Echevarría believes that the club has stayed true to the philosophy over the past 8 years and wants to continue that structure. Recently stated that “The philosophy is the strength of the club and we don’t want to touch it. We want to redouble the efforts in attracting and developing young talent.” Calls the philosophy “A strength, not a weaknesses.” and that “Athletic is a ship sailing in increasingly turbulent waters.”
Lezama – Believes that Lezama is stronger than it has even been in the club’s history. Calls it “An envied center of high performance”. Has highlighted the fact that they have allocated €40 million to strengthening Lezama when no other investments have been made since 1971. Also pointed out that in the last 7 years Lezama has produced 19 players for the first team and the Primera with half of those being internationals. Wants to improve the recruitment of young players and continue strengthening Lezama. Plans to introduce a Director of Lezama separate from the Sporting Director that would oversee the first team. Plans to build two new artificial fields, a residence building for youth players, and a state of the art building for the first team which is already being discussed on the political level with the city.
Coaching – Supports Gaizka Garitano and believes that he will be able to lead Athletic out of the relegation zone. Says that “We are in excellent hands” when referring to the current coaching staff. Uribe-Echevarría has shown no signs of looking to other potential managers as long as Garitano continues to do well.
Transfers – Has clearly stated that the club will have €300 million available to use and will not close the door on any possible signings. Admitted that Ibai Gómez, Ander Herrera, and Fernando Llorente are possible targets. Will listen to the desires of the Sporting Director and coach and, if they agree on a transfer target, the Board will offer the means to make the signing possible. Intends to sit down with Alex Remiro the day after winning the election to attempt to negotiate a new contract.
Grada de Animación – Believes that the entire San Mamés is responsible for supporting the team and creating the atmosphere, although he has recognized that the Grada de Animación would significantly affect this in a positive way. Has stated that he is looking into ways to promote the Grada de Animación in a way that is good for everyone and will discuss the topic with those in the section and supporter’s groups. Has not given any specific plan, but says that a project would be presented in the October General Assembly that would be a proposal accepted by all Socios.
San Mamés – Wants to promote an atmosphere in which the entire stadium takes part and has been working with younger and older fans to make it easier for them to come to the stadium and support the team. Revealed his plan to give fans points cards that will give them rewards for regularly attending games. Will not sell naming rights to the San Mamés and wants to keep the VIP section because removing it would cause a significant loss in revenue. Will propose measures to open an office at the stadium as one means for Socios to have direct access to communication with the club.
Sporting Director – Has shown no signs of parting with current Sporting Director José María Amorrortu until he retires when his contract expires in June. At this point he hasn’t discussed any possible replacements due to the fact that “no one would be able to have access to the position for another six months”. Will begin reflecting and planning for the transition in January with the goal of having a Sporting Director for the first team and a Director of Lezama, effectively splitting the job into two separate roles. Eibar’s Fran Garagarza has been linked with the Sporting Director role with Mikel Gónzalez rumored to be the choice for Director of Lezama.
Women’s Football – Desires to see Athletic continue to be a pioneer for the women’s game and significantly promote the growth of women’s football at the youth level. Has shared his plan to hold some matches for Athletic Femenino at the San Mamés and work for more equal pay for the Women’s team.
Economics – Uribe-Echevarría has vehemently defended the economic state of Athletic and played a big role as the club’s accountant. By being a continuist candidate from the previous Board of Directors he will have access to the €300 million surplus to use. Has defended the team’s wage bill as a necessary part of having some of the best Basque players in football in the squad. He’s stated that he will seek to “Internalize the Athletic Brand” with new forms of merchandising, marketing, and sponsorships while also working to “Unify the direction of business” by partnering with the Guggenheim Museum, the Fine Arts Center, and other similar institutions. Wants to “Put the Athletic Museum on the map”. Plans to have routine audits and continue to keep the economics of the club transparent.
Generating Revenue – To generate new sources of income through merchandising, marketing, and sponsorships Uribe-Echevarría has stated that he will seek an “Internalized approach” to generating revenue. This means that he wants the club to be able to generate its own income instead of constantly looking to outside sources such as giving the naming rights to the San Mamés and other forms of external partnerships. Has also stated his awareness that Athletic “Will never sell 3 millions shirts like Real Madrid or Barcelona”. In response to Aitor Elizegi’s claims that the club has not improved the €8 million annual income from marketing and branding over the past seven years, Uribe-Echevarría stated that the club is now bringing in over €20 million yearly.
Protecting Players – Defends the goal of having players sign new contracts that do not contain release clauses and desires for that to be the model during his Presidency. Will attempt to negotiate all contracts in this manner. Believes that it would allow players to demonstrate their loyalty while also protecting the club from potential losses. Has shown a positive leaning towards rewarding players for their contributions and loyalty with fair contracts. Recently stated that “The players are the representatives of the people and we can’t put a price on them”. When clubs show interest in Athletic players Uribe-Echevarría will continue the custom of only selling if the player’s release clause is paid.
Media – Proposes a new media app that will give Socios direct communication with the club and possibly each other. Has stated his desire for Athletic to have its own television channel. In regards to relations with journalists, things would stay as is with very little change if any at all.
Socios – Wants to have constant contact between the Board and Socios and will create a “More functional Ibaigane” that will be open for Socios to visit, get assistance, and have their opinions and concerned heard. Will set up an office at the San Mamés and introduce a mobil app that will allow more open and transparent contact with Socios. Has also expressed desire to propose changes that will make it easier for younger fans to become Socios. Will introduce measures to break up payments to make it easier financially to become a Socio, as well as allow current Socios to be set up on payment plans when things are difficult so that they wouldn’t have to permanently cancel their memberships.
Sporting Law – Desires to “modernize” the Sporting Law which wouldn’t force incoming Presidents to be personally responsible for financial losses that occur and would allow other besides just continuist candidates to have access to any surpluses. Will “Initiate a process to modify the bylaws” with a focus on consensus approval for major topics.
Social – Plans to continue supporting and strengthening Basque as the official language of the club and work to protect and promote the language in the area. Will work to “improve the cultural and social impact of the Athletic Foundation” while also increasing the number of supporters and volunteers.
Main Goals of the Project – Protecting and maintaining an unequivocal commitment to Athletic’s philosophy, improving and remaining focused on Lezama, introducing a Director of Lezama, creating easier contact with Socios and the Board of Directors, more contracts without release clauses, growing the women’s game, increasing revenue through internalized branding and marketing, creating the club’s own television channel, looking for ways to promote the Grada de Animación, and continuing to build the financial strength and security of Athletic Club.