SD Eibar are a team that represents 27,000 people from the small town of the same name in the Basque Country. And despite their size, they’re making big waves not only in La Liga but financially as well. Per the Financial Times, Eibar are currently one of the fastest growing companies in all of Europe thanks to the way the club is run.
“We have operated like a small town company, like a family,” says Jon Ander Ulazia, Eibar’s chief executive. “For a lot of years in Spain, small clubs have been spending a lot of money, and they have great debts that have made them unsustainable,” he says. “We have been in a good situation; we have no debt, due to our culture. This has allowed us to be more competitive behind the great clubs.”
To put this into perspective, Eibar were playing in the third tier of Spanish football six years ago. But unexpected back-to-back promotions left them with a conundrum, due to laws designed to strengthen clubs to ensure they had enough capital to operate, Eibar were told to raise €1.7m to ensure promotion to La Liga.
This meant that the club had to sell voting shares to raise capital, with a worldwide campaign that included support from Xabi Alonso, who played very briefly on loan for the club. This led to 10,000 people from 50 countries buying into Eibar, which meant that they comfortably raised the required amount.
Eibar have survived without spending beyond their means, instead investing their profits—€14m pre-tax in 2016–17—on the club’s infrastructure, stadium, and training facilities, relying on promoting from within and scouting relatively cheap players who have a high sell-on potential rather than trying to avoid relegation from La Liga by spending big on players..
As their chief executive, Ander Ulazia, explains, “What we have done with these investments is transform our club, we have to become a strong club, we have to be a different club that again aspires to play in La Liga instead of trying not to be relegated back to the third tier.”
MUNDIAL Features Editor, Owen Blackhurst, visited Eibar and the surrounding Basque Country earlier in the year for Issue 17. Among a town of mismatched buildings and jarring angles, he found a club with passionate fans, an ability to compete within its own means, and an extremely beautiful stadium. He wants to go back. And we all want to visit.