Last night it finally become clarified what will be the identity of the Spanish top club Ciudad Real in Spanish and EHF competition during the coming season. On the basis of media reports, there was previously speculation of some kind of merger with football giant Real Madrid, as I commented in an earlier posting. However, it has now been announced that the team will be appearing under the name of Real Madrid’s local rival Atletico Madrid instead.
I am chosing my words carefully, because it appears that we are talking about a one-year arrangement under which Atletico lends its name to the team of Ciudad Real. But to make it more complicated, one should really say that the club Ciudad Real is now registered in Madrid as the club Neptuno. And then Neptuno’s ‘senior’ team is allowed to use the name Atletico, which as I have commented earlier, has really proud traditions in the handball of Spain.
In this way, while the matches in the Spanish League and the EHF Champions League will be played in Madrid, possibly in Palacio de Deportes, the rest of the activities of the club Neptuno may well take place in the city of Ciudad Real. So the players may continue to live there and and practice there, but when the time comes for the ‘home’ games, they will take their uniforms and travel to Madrid.
How this will be received in the city of Ciudad Real is perhaps not so certain. Will the faithful fans travel with the team and continue to support them? And whether the team will quickly be able to establish a fan base in Madrid is not so clear. Presumably there is some dormant handball interest in the capital, so perhaps it will work out well. By the way, it has not been mentioned whether the use of the name Atletico also means that the team will adopt the classic red-white stripes of Atletico…
Beyond this specific development, there is of course the more fundamental question of the economic viability of expensive, world-class handball in Spain. Will the money be there to support top teams with highly-paid players from abroad, and will there be sponsors and resources that will allow some of the weaker team to stay alive?
There are also more systemic concerns. The referees of the top league are still owed a large part of their remuneration from the 2010-11 season, and the Spanish Federation has had to step in to help out in the meantime. This is only one reason why the situation between the Federation and the League is very tense.
And the highest sports authorities of Spain are still having serious concerns about the whole idea of Spain being the organizer of the Men’s World’s Championship 2013. Many of the planned host cities are having problems with the financing. The Spanish Federation seems to have asked the IHF for a loan to bridge them over! Who knows: perhaps there is still a chance for France, the disppointed loser in the fight for the 2015 Championship, to get in ahead of Qatar by taking over 2013…