Since their fall from La Liga, things for Recreativo de Huelva have gone from bad to worse, with Spain’s oldest football club going to the brink of extinction.
After spending five seasons around mid-table in the Segunda Division, Recre were relegated once again in 2015, amid financial difficulties, declining attendances and poor decisions from the club’s majority shareholder, Gildoy España.
Problems increased in the third tier, where Huelva were playing the likes of Sevilla Atletico, Linares and Algericiras, compared to Real Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla’s first team in 2009.
Last game after 126 years?
The date was 19th March 2016. The place, Recreativo’s Nuevo Colombino. They were playing Granada’s B team and in the run-up to the fixture, it was claimed it would be the last game for Recre in their 126-year history, as reported by AS.
Fans were enticed to the ground by an entry fee of just one euro, as financial troubles had reached extreme levels, with staff and players unpaid throughout the entire season. The owner, Pablo Comas, had ran the club into over €20 million of debt and refusing to sell to local businessmen, willing to settle Recre’s outstanding balance and keep them afloat.
While they won the match 1-0 and the club’s call to arms produced a sell-out stadium, their troubles were far from over. They finished the season 13th, but still had to raise €2 million to register in the league for the upcoming campaign by 30th June.
Saved by fans and legends
Spanish football legends Raul and Iker Casillas donated signed shirts, along with former Recre midfielder, now Arsenal star, Santi Cazorla. Real Madrid, and fellow Andalusian clubs Real Betis and Sevilla also chipped in to help, as per World Soccer Talk. They all realised the enormity of the situation and how horrifying it would be to lose the club where it all started in Spain.
According to Football Espana, the Recreativo de Huelva Supporters Trust had to pick up the pieces that were left by their owner Comas, enlist the local government to take over the club’s shares and then raise the money to avoid bankruptcy.
In the end, fan ownership was the club’s life-saver, as supporters could buy shares in their club and have their say in its matters. El Decano (the Dean) survived.
Just over 18 months later, Recre are still in the third tier of Spanish football, currently sitting 10th , as of 4th January, but are stable financially for now and have the most passionate people running the club, their fans.