It’s not been a happy season for Racing Santander. Shorn of their brightest player, Sergio Canales, by Real Madrid in the summer, Los Racinguistas have muddled along in La Liga in recent months and currently find themselves planted in fourteenth place, just four points clear of the relegation zone. With the equal worst goal scoring record in the division, Racing’s ageing squad has struggled for consistency, their on-field troubles compounded by the very real prospect of financial oblivion which has been facing the club.
While the outlook for the Cantabrian side may have been bleak of late, it looks as though Racing might soon be handed a lifeline in the shape of a change of ownership. An Indian business tycoon by the name of Ahsan Ali Syed, the man who first attempted to buy Blackburn Rovers back in August before the intervention of Venky’s Group, is reported to be in the advanced stages of negotiation with the club. With a €40m deal on the table, Syed has reportedly pledged to invest around €90m in Racing over the next five years, a sum which would clear the debts at El Sardinero and restore something approaching financial normality.
With Syed’s deal widely expected to be completed with the backing of the Cantabrian regional authorities in the coming days, Racing are poised to become only the second La Liga club to be taken on by a foreign owner. Indeed, foreign ownership of football clubs has historically been something of a rarity in Spain, but it is a trend that is slowly becoming increasingly prevalent. Back in June 2010 Málaga were bought out by Qatari millionaire Abdullah ben Nasser Al Thani, his sizeable fortune having funded the recent acquisition of big-name players such as Martín Demichelis, Júlio Baptista and Enzo Maresca, not to mention the arrival of Manuel Pellegrini as manager in November.
With La Liga’s already grossly unequal division of television money soon set to become even more biased in favour of Real Madrid and Barcelona, foreign ownership on the widespread scale we now see in the Premier League may be the only way the league’s other eighteen clubs will be able to compete with the “big two” in the years to come. With Madrid and Barça having such a powerful duopoly over both money and support in Spain (two-thirds of all TV money is shared between them), other sides simply don’t receive enough commercial capital to stay out of debt in the long-term, a huge inequality which has led to a serious financial crisis enveloping Spanish football.
If the majority of clubs in the Spanish game are to be able to retain even a semblance of competitiveness in the future, foreign investment may well become the only viable route through which that may be achieved. As the Premier League has demonstrated, there are many pitfalls associated with foreign ownership, but it is surely a risk worth taking for clubs as debt-ridden and trailing so far behind the league leaders as many in Spain are.
Racing are set to become the latest club to be taken over by foreign investors, but it is highly unlikely that they will be the last. With financial inequality amongst Spanish teams at an all time high, unless more clubs go down such a route it is improbable that any team will even get close to challenging Real Madrid or Barcelona for the title, let alone winning it for years – perhaps decades – to come.