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An old Athletic Club resurrects ephebocracy


What used to be called ephebocracy - being governed by the young - is generally in retreat in Spanish politics, with Rivera, Iglesias and Casado out of the scene, but it has surprisingly resurfaced in Bilbao, at the old and beloved Athletic Club, where the youngest of three candidates was chosen, a man who promoted himself as such. A young achiever in the rabidly youthful world of start-ups, new president Jon Uriarte was surrounded by a board of directors with a similar profile, half of whom were fellow graduates. He caused the surprise because although he received more signatures than anyone else, he suffered notable setbacks in the campaign, especially the loss of his sporting director. But he won across all 24 tables, divided by seniority.

Calm Valverde over eccentric Bielsa

That sporting director was going to appoint the manager, but as he had to be let go, so the new man had to make the call and so did with Valverde (who will have to be taken into account when looking for a new sporting director, which reverses the initial intention), a coach also linked with Barkala’s failing campaign. I have already argued that there is a temptation to make this election a caricature of a manager’s election rather than a president’s election, and seen in this light, Valverde would have beaten Bielsa (Arechabaleta’s trump card) 15,901-7,927. Double the votes. The members trusted the calm Valverde more than Bielsa, with that eccentric touch that many dislike.

But no, these were elections for the presidency and the members have chosen by a large margin the man with the ‘startups’ who promises new methods to organise Lezama and the club, and to raise revenue. In the campaign, much more was spent on the social networks than on conventional media. A vote that breaks from the norm, and indicates that the members have a less archaeological and museum-like concept of Athletic than we tend to accuse them of from the outside. A vote that suggests they trust in the new paths that Uriarte can find to get them out of this kind of historical calm they have been going through. He chose a board of directors lacking in football experience, but very much in tune with today’s world. Good luck to them.


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