Friday, December 23, 2016

The Club That Failed: Real Mallorca

Real Mallorca have been celebrating their one hundredth anniversary this year. Celebrating it in typically lousy fashion - typically lousy, as in being the normal state of the team. In order to try and inject a bit more spirit into this celebration which hasn't been, players went off for a night out at the weekend, having been turned over by another team languishing towards the bottom of Spain's second division. That team, Numancia, is such a big force that it manages to scrape some two thousand or so spectators together. By comparison, Mallorca are the big time; if one considers gates around 8,000 being the big time.

Mallorca would like to believe that they are the big time, and there have been occasions (very rare ones) over the one hundred years when they have actually achieved something. But this is not a club that falls into the sleeping giant category. It is and has been for much of its history a comatose dwarf.

It is now discovering the delights of contemporary communications technology. Local critics of England and/or Premier League footballers and their antics (think Wayne Rooney and some wedding photos) themselves find that footballers from Spain are just as capable of going out and behaving badly. Not that they did particularly; just that it didn't look good, having been on the wrong end of a 3-1 defeat against a side of even more dwarf-like qualities such as Numancia.

Supporters of Mallorca are also learning, as have those of many English clubs, that foreign ownership doesn't necessarily equate to success. There has been a German and now there's an American, and at present Mallorca are heading in one direction: out of the second division and into the obscurity of the various third divisions.

The chances are, as has been the case in previous seasons, that they will pull themselves together. They may even "go on a run", to use the hope expressed by many a fan of many a club who dares to think of a play-off spot. Equally they may not.

The foreign ownership is not what has brought Mallorca to its current low ebb. There were Mallorcans and Spaniards who had previously conspired to set in motion the downward spiral. The foreigners can't per se be blamed, though they have come offering gifts and hope. In the case of Robert Sarver, the owner of the Phoenix Suns NBA team, which he acquired for 400 million dollars in 2004, he had intimated that there could be substantial funds available. As yet, there has been little sign of this. Instead, Mallorca get by and sack coaches on a regular basis courtesy of a rag-tag combination of loaned players and the occasionally half-decent locally developed one.

Sarver paid 20 million euros for Mallorca at the start of the year. What motivated him to do so is frankly anyone's guess. While he has made a fortune from real estate and banking, his ventures into sport haven't been as successful. There was a decent run for the Phoenix Suns from 2005 to 2007, but they have since been eliminated from play-off contention for the past six seasons. In October, Sarver was ranked as the worst owner in the NBA by ESPN.

When Sarver took over there was talk of a strategic plan for the club. This didn't necessarily demand that there was immediate promotion, but one can take that with a pinch of salt. New owners do not part with 20 million and expect to linger in the second division when they have the Madrids and Barcelonas to hob-nob with in La Liga.

So where's it all going wrong? Players, coaches, owners; maybe they can all share the blame. But there seems to have been a culture of failure for several years, regardless of who has been in charge or who has been playing. Berating the current players for going on a night out is the thin end of a considerable wedge that has been driving the club down. And it's a damn shame. Having a decent La Liga side would be beneficial to Mallorca as a whole and not just the team's fans.

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