It would be wrong to paint a picture of Real Racing Club de Santander as a La Liga institution, but even by their standards, life at the club is currently very bleak. Since reaching La Liga for the first time in 1929, Racing have bounced between the top league, the Segunda División and the third tier of Spanish football.
Upon returning to La Liga in 2002, Racing put together their longest top flight run, ten seasons, beating their sequence of nine consecutive seasons, in 1929. The 2007/08 seasons was a particular highlight, with a young, talented manager in Marcelino guiding the team to 6th in the league, qualifying for the UEFA cup as a result, and reaching the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey. The squad contained the likes of club legend Pedro Munitis, midfield destroyer Aldo Duscher and future Argentinian international Ezequiel Garay at centre-back.
The following three seasons saw Racing survive reasonably comfortable in La Liga, finishing 12th, 16th and 12th, but in the 2011/12 season they finished dead last, ten points short of Sporting Gijón in 19th place. Worse was to come for Racing, as the true extent of Ahsan Ali Syed's takeover deal became clear.
Ahsan had purchased the club in January 2011, carrying gargantuan promises of joining Real Madrid and Barcelona as Spanish football's third dominant club. He was welcomed with open arms by the clubs board, due to Racing's precarious finances. It was all too good to be true for Racing, and just as quickly as he appeared, Ahsan went missing, reportedly chased by interpol, rumoured to be nothing but a con-man. The club were financially in ruins, and the infrastructure that was supposed to help the club in times of crisis fell apart, as The Guardian's Sid Lowe's fantastic article elucidates.
Life in the second tier was no easier for Racing, and once again the season ended in disaster, with Racing finishing 20th, therefore relegated to Segunda División B.
On the 30 January 2014, the clubs plight became headline news, when Racing players refused to participate in their quarter-final Copa del Rey tie against Real Sociedad, demanding that the board resign, in light of the players not receiving their wages for months.
For their actions Racing were lauded by supporters and players alike, but received a fine, and banned from next season's Copa del Rey. Small solace could be taken in the fact that Racing's protest did indeed lead to the sacking of Chairman Ángel Lavín, who had previously been assaulted by supporters for his part in Racing's troubles.
Results in Segunda División B have been somewhat better for Racing, and on Sunday they face Albacete for in the play-off final, having finished top of Group 1, to regain a place in the Segunda División.
Finances are still grim, but with the help of current chairman, and former Santander player, Juan Antonio Sañudo, there is at least some optimism at El Sardinero, where before there was none.
Long gone are the days of Munitis, Garay and Sergio Canales strutting their stuff for Racing, but a win on Sunday would be a massive stepping stone back to normality for both the players and particularly the supporters.
Racing Santander should forever serve as a warning in modern football, as to what can happen when con-men are allowed to ruin football clubs. The worst is hopefully over for Racing, but they have been made to pay heavily for the boards lack of vigilance.
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