Aitor Elizegi “Playing Behind Closed Doors At San Mamés Is A Dagger In Our Hearts”
The landscape of football will look very difficult in the months ahead. It already does. In the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic football clubs have lost money on an enormous scale and will continue to do so. Although football in Spain is set to return on 11 June, most clubs won’t recovery quickly.
On Friday, Athletic president Aitor Elizegi penned a letter to all Socios calling for unity during this difficult time. In it he explained that the club is already looking into ways to overcome the financial impact, but admits that it won’t be a simple task.
“Athletic and the fans always grow in the face of adversity,” said Elizegi. “Now we face a monumental daily challenge in every aspect. We assume an enormous management responsibility and we want to continue being a meeting point for our fans from all over the planet.
When football does return next month games will take place without fans in attendance. “Playing behind closed doors at San Mamés is a dagger in our hearts,” continued the president. “We will miss you, but we will try to keep you feeling close whenever allowed, even if it’s one by one.”
With football close to returning in Spain, Elizegi reinforced the team’s goal of qualifying for Europe and winning the Copa del Rey final which has been postponed until next season.
“As I write these lines, Gaizka Garitano is training with dreams of reaching Europe. Our Lions had left their lives and will leave it all to win the first Cup of this century. We want to imitate those Zurigorri heroes of the eighties who conspired to give joy to the town after the floods and went down the estuary on La Gabarra. This generation has an incentive to give a few days of enthusiasm to the great red and white family so that they can temporarily forget the coronavirus.”
Even in the midst of this unprecedented situation, the club is still working to improve in several areas. Construction has resumed at Lezama, among other priorities.
“A feeling of pride overcomes me when as watch Lezama grow with the construction of the first team building and future residence. There are also other projects such as the new entrances to the high stands of San Mamés or the Grada de Animación, for which the plans are still on track.”
Several weeks ago the first team reached an agreement to lower wages in order to protect other employees and offset the financial loss. Now, the club is looking to ways to reimburse Socios who had purchased season tickets.
“We are already planning ways to compensate for this blow because the change in scenery has already had a direct impact on our coffers. Footballers and the coaching staff, in addition to many other professionals from the club, have contributed to partially alleviate the losses.”
In closing, Elizegi is confident that the football stoppage and financial impact caused by the pandemic will be overcome. The remaining eleven games of the season will be played without fans, but it won’t be long until San Mamés is roaring once again.
“The club has a fantastic future and will continue to be a point of support, a hope for our society, for our youth, and ultimately for our people. Years of teamwork are taking place, measures to recover and sustain the hopes of our Socios, supporters, and fans. It will be necessary to tighten up more than ever on the pitch and in Ibaigane so that, with or without masks, the cry will sound louder. Aupa Athleeeeeetic!””
When the season does resume Athletic’s next scheduled match will take place against Atlético Madrid at San Mamés. The Lions currently sit five points off of seventh place and a chance to play in Europe next season.