Presidential elections at Athletic Club. In Spanish football today, it’s the boards that appoint the club presidents, except at four teams that are fan-owned: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Osasuna and Athletic. Because of a change to the club statutes that has consolidated Florentino Pérez’s power, there are no longer elections at Madrid, though. And they go pretty much unnoticed at Osasuna, who fly under the radar in so much that they do. But Barça and Athletic are a different story. At the Camp Nou, we watched on last year as Joan Laporta secured victory at a stroke with that campaign ad hung on the side of a building next to the Bernabéu, although I no longer know how to take that message, given the deference Laporta shows his Madrid counterpart.
At Athletic, there are three candidates. There’s Jon Uriarte, a successful young entrepreneur whose campaign got off to a flying start when he secured more signatures than anyone else. However, his bid suffered a blow when it emerged that the man he’d earmarked as sporting director was nuts. I’m also not sure how well his attempts to appeal to young voters will go down among the many club members whose youth is now behind them. Ricardo Barkala, who runs Bilbao Port, tried and failed to make Mauricio Pochettino the cornerstone of his candidacy, and after sounding out Marcelino García Toral has settled on Ernesto Valverde, as has Uriarte. Iñaki Arechabaleta, who has had success as a media executive, wants to dust off Marcelo Bielsa, who has plenty of devotees at Athletic, but also plenty of detractors.
Could the Valverde vote end up being split?
So two candidates want to appoint Valverde as head coach, and the other wants to go with Bielsa. Although Barkala has sought to strengthen his bid at the 11th hour by promising to sign Osasuna midfielder Jon Moncayola, it’s a campaign which - given the lack of in-depth debates, or the lack of attention paid to them - comes down to which of Valverde and Bielsa will be in the dugout. Yesterday, I was talking to an old friend of mine who’s an Athletic supporter, and he was wondering which candidate Valverde himself will go for. After all, as a club member, he’s got a vote. It’s a good question; one I don’t think we have the answer to. What is clear is that his presence in two bids could end up splitting the vote between his supporters, while the Bielsistas will all vote as one.