You work, therefore you get paid. That’s at least the concept of how the capitalist system ought to work. Unfortunately, this is not true in many cases across the globe. And it has become very real in Spain, more precisely, at Real Racing Club de Santander, the 104-year-old club who defeated FC Barcelona in a 5-0 shootout in the 1994-95 season.
In the last two seasons, Racing went through relegation twice, from La Liga to Segunda División in 2012, then from Segunda División to Segunda División B, the third level of the Spanish national league, in 2013. But this is still not the bottom line of the troubling times the club from Santander has reached.
Ever since September of 2013 the players from Racing have not received a single penny from their employer. One may say that footballers earn astronomical wages when compared to an average salary, and they can leave even an entire year without being paid. Yet this is no excuse for any employer to be in debt with the employees, no matter how stipe or low their monthly paychecks are.
Both the economical crisis as well as the tough times to hang on to the second division in the Spanish league system, was called by Sid Lowe, from the Guardian, back in December of last year.
And earlier this year, the Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE) posted a statement giving more details on the Racing wage problems, according to the Football Espana.
“As of today, the footballers are still owed their salaries for the months of October, November and December. The club’s board have now back on their promise to pay the players a part of the money owed three times. Ángel Lavín, the club’s president, both in public and private, promised the squad they would receive the money owed to them by 31 December, at the latest, but that promise has not been fulfilled. As a result of the aforementioned, the squad is experiencing a very delicate situation, because not only are they not getting paid, but they have to carry on paying for the bulk of their personal expenses and that of their families, bearing in mind that the vast majority of them are from outside Cantabria.”
The footballers from Racing later in January also asked for the club’s president as well as the board of directors to step down, otherwise they would refuse to face off Real Sociedad in the second-leg for the Copa del Rey. This has been only the third time Racing have achieved this far into the tournament.
So without any movement in the top seats at Racing, the players went on a strike.
As soon as the first whistle sounded the for Copa del Rey 16-round Racing’s players gathered in the middle field and refused to play at Campos de Sport de El Sardinero, in protest for the club debt of months of late salaries.
You can watch this moment below.
Also, FIFPro, the worldwide representative organization for all professional football players, has agreed with the players to protest via its Twitter account.
Unpaid for four months, the players of Racing Santander are well within their rights to strike.
— FIFPro (@FIFPro) January 30, 2014
The players of Racing Santander are to be commended for their strength and courage in these difficult times.
— FIFPro (@FIFPro) January 30, 2014
According to the Associate Press, via Yahoo!, Racing have been banned from the Copa del Rey next edition, and the club will also have add $4,056 to their debt, which has gone over $65 million.
But what could have caused such a disaster in the football world? For Philippe Piat, president of FIFPro the current transfer system has brought many clubs like Racing to their wage issues nowadays.
“These players – and many others like them – are victims of the current transfer system, which does not defend their fundamental rights and promotes abuse. Players are considered to be little more than objects to be used and thrown away. This is the result of a deeply flawed and illegal transfer system, which allows clubs to squander money irresponsibly, instead of spending it with good sense,” he said via FIFPro website.
And he continued: “The action of the Racing players is a new signal, warning that it’s essential to do something urgently in order to save football.”
Would Racing reverse their 3-1 defeat in the first-leg of Copa del Rey against Real Sociedad? Maybe. Would they have a chance to beat Barcelona in the semi-final? Probably not. But at the end of the day, soccer promotes union, respect and well-being of all as well as that both teams on the field ought to have equal opportunities to deliver the best they can do.
Racing’s players deserved to have had the best environment and a fair shot in all their matches without thinking about making ends meet for their families constantly.
“We have given up what we like most, which is to play,” said Racing’s striker Mariano Sanz after the match last January, according to the Daily Mail.
And he continued: “We wanted to play but we couldn’t let them stand on our rights. To play in the quarters was a dream for us, everything had gone so well to get there.”
At least these players still got an opportunity in bringing the team back to the Segunda División, as they stand in first place on the Segunda División B with 44 points, two ahead second seed Guijuelo and three in front of third place, Racing Ferrol. In addition, as per AP, on Friday January 31st president Lavin left the club along with his board of directors, and former Racing player Tuto Sanudo will take over.
Even if Racing are promoted at the end of the season, this has no value once the players need to pay their personal bills. It will take months if not a few years for the club to payoff its debt. But the urgent matter of solving the wage problem should be in Sanudo’s every time the clock tics.