EL PAÍS interviews the two candidates for the Athletic president. This Thursday, December 27, club members go to the polls to choose between Aitor Elizegi and Alberto Uribe-Echevarria.
Aitor Elizegi: "Athletic is not the Stock Exchange"
Aitor Elizegi (Bilbao, 1966) is a chef, businessman and had already threatened to run for the presidency of Athletic. Now he does it after an initial resignation. He has surrounded himself with a work group that puts the necessary balance to his dreams.
Question. Why do you expect members to vote for you?
Answer. What we need is a new Athletic, which is the partner who decides. The club will not be what I say, Urrutia or Uribe-Echevarria, but what decides Bizkaia, Bilbao, the followers of Athletic, the Basques, the Spaniards or the followers of other countries that like Athletic.
P. For a few days, the campaign only talked about money.
R. We do not like it because the money has not been worth much to Josu [Urrutia] or to Alberto Uribe-Echevarria. All the disaffection they have had can not be bought with money. It is also not true that we can not bring any player who wants to come to Athletic.
P. Also Fernando Llorente?
R. To all who want to return. There I agree with Urrutia. The equation is that a player wants to be at home, wants to return … Aduriz or Beñat did it. It's a journey easier than it seems.
P. Let's go back to the 300 million that Uribe-Echevarria says he can spend and you can not.
R. They are playing with the figures, which are the heritage of 44,000 people. That money is not mine or Alberto's. They talk about that could end up consuming the patrimony of the club, which has cost us all five or six franchise players. We are without Kepa, without Laporte, without Javi Martínez, without Herrera. That was the heritage. They have not created an extraordinary income in eight years. What heritage are you talking about?
P. What are you talking about?
R. This is not the Exchange, it's Athletic. It only has two parameters: its sporting capacity and the happiness of its followers. Nobody becomes a member of Athletic for their net worth, but to be happy, to have memories, to have friends. Nobody asks for a distribution of benefits at the end of the year, but sharing happiness at the end of the season. I do not know who has explained to this man what Athletic is.
P. Your rival comes from finance.
R. We have been counting numbers for years instead of happiness, passion, excitement, animation, justice, woman … I like that Athletic more in which nobody stays on the road, more than Athletic millionaire. I think more the speech of a PSG president.
P. What project does Elizegi have on the animation stage?
R. That is priceless. It would be the heart of Athletic for the next 50 years.
P. Do you want a tier of artificial animation, encourage to animate?
R. I am convinced by Anfield, Dortmund, the Harrow of Rayo and Osasuna. They are stands where there are those who want to have fun in football. Now there are two separate stands and it seems very difficult to change.
P. You have talked about the VIP ring, with ideas different from those of Urrutia, but it is a source of important income.
R. Well, the ones that the Foundation lacks. We will have to see the exploitation accounts of the VIP ring.
Alberto Uribe-Echevarria: "The philosophy of the club is not touched"
Alberto Uribe-Echevarria (Bilbao, 1959) has been an accountant on the board of directors of Josu Urrutia and is now the candidate official in the Athletic elections. He does not forget his seven and a half years with the president, but he says he has another way of being.
Question. Give me arguments to vote for the partners.
Answer. It is a club within an increasingly globalized football industry, with some impressive challenges and requires a team with experience, enthusiasm, and a perfect combination of seniority and youth.
P. Did you have any doubts?
R. No. We were clear that we were not going to leave Athletic behind. We are talking about a 120 million budget institution. I've been leading an organization of 500 elite professionals for 35 years and I've already accumulated seven and a half years in the club, I think it's a good combination.
P. You came to Athletic without experience in a club, what have you learned in this time?
R. Which is very complicated Decisions are never simple. It's different from a company.
P. He says he loves Josu Urrutia very much, but that he is not him. Will the way of working change?
R. When I say that I am not Urrutia, I do not do it because I want to be different from him, but I have my own personality and style. Neither better nor worse, different.
P. In the end, everything depends on 11 players.
R. The leadership of a club does not depend only on the sporting results, although we are not going to cheat, when the ball goes in everything is easier, but we do not take the step for the short term. When we gave it, the team was in descent positions.
P. Elizegi's candidacy speaks a lot about the animation tier. What have you thought?
R. It's complicated. The tier of animation is important, but what worries me is the animation in San Mamés.
P. He also questions the VIP boxes.
R. Your income is one of the main sources. It's five and a half million. But, also, the more income you have from the stadium, the more income there is from television. What does not come to you, goes to your rivals because the cake is the same. These proposals are part of inexperience.
P. Is philosophy touched?
R. Do not.
P. So taxing?
R. We are not going to promote a change.
P. How will the women's team develop?
R. I think that no other club has done so much for women's football as Athletic. All players have full-time professional contracts. We are pioneers. Having five women in the bid is also a gesture to convey that women's football and equality matter to us.
P. Gaizka Garitano will be your coach?
R. Garitano is our coach. He has experience in First. And, by the way, the fact that he was there has something to do with the planning capacity of the previous board of directors.
P. Fernando Llorente has let himself be loved. Would you sign it?
R. For him and for anyone, there have to be several conditions: that the coaching staff and the sports management ask for it, and that the player wants it. We are probably in time to invest. And you do not have to crucify anyone for leaving.