Desperate Zaragoza fan seeks solution in the crowd
Aragonese lawyer says crowdfunding is the only way to save soccer club.
By Joe McMahon
Like most Real Zaragoza fans José Antonio Visús is fed up. Since Agapito Iglesias, the team owner, bought the club in 2006, fans have suffered one season in second division and have consistently finished near the bottom of the table. Now it’s back to second division.
While most supporters are pessimistic and flat out angry, Visús actually wants to do something about the situation. He’s rallying the club’s fans and asking them to contribute whatever they can to try to get rid of Iglesias.
His solution? Crowdfunding.
Iglesias isn’t selling, but Zaragoza fans want to buy. Visús, a relatively unknown lawyer until recently, figures that if he can get €2 million in crowdfunding from fan contributions he’ll have just enough social mass to convince big names to come out of the shadows and openly support the initiative, both morally and financially.
Some people think Visús is crazy; others are just plain sceptical, a common trait in Aragón. But there is a consensus among fans that replacing Iglesias would be good for the club. The hashtag #YoComproRZ isn’t a trending topic yet, but it’s gaining force.
June 17 is the launch date. Visús has surrounded himself with local talent and entrusted two young journalists to design and run the crowdfunding platform.SomosAmalgama was merely a university degree project until Alba Escobar and Verónica Crespo contacted Visús and offered to provide technical support for his plan.
“The same day we defended our final project (before the exam board) we called Visús and asked to meet him. That afternoon he gave us the green light and told us to get to work,” said Escobar. Three days later they appeared in a press conference to explain what crowdfunding entails.
“Not many people in Spain know what crowdfunding is. If this project is going to be successful we’ll have to explain the ins and outs of this new way of financing business ventures,” said Crespo.
“The main advantage of crowdfunding for this type of project is that if it doesn’t reach its goal of €2 million those who have contributed money don’t lose anything. Their money is “frozen” in their own accounts until the total amount is raised,” said Escobar.
Visús needs support from the fan base and knows now is the time to get their attention while emotions are still running high. His strategy is to convince them to be proactive and become shareholders of the club. He explained his intention to “save” the club thus: “Today is the beginning of a new era. The citizens of Aragón are going to make a strong offer to Agapito Iglesias. No sheik is going to show up; we are the only ones who can save Real Zaragoza.”
The situation is complicated and even more so now that Iglesias has valued his shares at €14 million plus €90 million of accumulated debt. The share value is seen by many observers as overly optimistic, especially considering the team has recently been relegated. Iglesias is president of Codesport, a construction company that is in as much financial trouble as Real Zaragoza. But Iglesias seems to be holding on to both entities in the hope that a miracle will occur.
Attempts have been made to buy the team over the last two years, but Iglesias won’t let go of the reins. He has literally been run out of town to avoid supporters’ rage and now resides in Madrid.
Despite all the club’s problems, Visús wants to take over this less than desirable job and he is calling on Zaragoza fans to make their contributions before July 6. Supporters can invest between €1 and €20,006 (1 percent of the social capital) to try to convince Iglesias to sell the club. “If he doesn’t sell, at least the people of Aragón will have tried, but we have to do something,” Visús says.
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