Rugby on the Iberian peninsula had some news on and off the field these last few weeks. It was an eventful month as there was evidence of Spanish Rugby’s Guerra Civil action, of internal pressures and Yes, as well as some ‘actual’ rugby being played.
Spanish Rugby’s Guerra Civil – news from on and off the field
Another week and more shots were fired in Spanish Rugby´s Guerra Civil. As Last Word on Rugby mentioned last week, Spanish Rugby was preparing itself to throw the book at Alcobendas and that indeed has been delivered with this statement.
Federation ‘Judgement Day’ for Alcobendas
The Spanish Rugby Federation (FER) delivered the news on May 26 that Alcobendas are eliminated from both the Copa Del Rey de Rugby (Kings Cup) final and Division de Honor playoffs – which took place this weekend.
More extreme was the 3000 euro fines and five year bans issued to club officials Jano Cherr, Fernando Díez Molina, and head coach José Ignacio Inchausti Bravo.
The final blow is that Alcobendas will also be relegated to the second tier of Spanish Rugby; a regional system. Prefaced by recent reports, this is all evidence of Spanish Rugby’s Guerra civil action (and reaction).
🚨 Resolución del Comité Nacional de Disciplina de la FER sobre el ‘caso Alcobendas’ https://t.co/7yBv8Hmx8I
— España Rugby (@ferugby) May 26, 2022
Reaction from those offended and penalized was instant and European-based contributor Edward Anderson breaks down, in the words of the affected club feels “unfairly singled out, blamed and sanctioned for the events. The lack of rigor of the FER leaves the Club and Spanish rugby injured”.
Shock, anger, and recrimination
It is a damning blow for a club that has won the King´s Cup three times in a row, last year´s Division de Honor runners up, and semi-finalists from 2017 until this season. The club is entitled to appeal but everyone here knows that it would be a foregone conclusion and with the finals having already taken place by the time any appeal would be considered, worthless.
Still, the reaction in the Spanish Rugby community has largely been anger the club has only been demoted one division. Regardless, should Alcobendas’ main sponsor withdraw, the effect will be the end of semi-professionalism in the club and a loss of one of Madrid’s two big teams. So not only have the Federation probably killed a team yet by not doing it themselves literally; waiting for a sponsor to pull out. And subsequently, they still draw the ire of the rest of the ‘rugby family in Spain’.
Covid saw Cantabria go from two top-flight teams to zero with one folding, and the Bisontes Independiente Rugby Club of Santander relegated. Now Madrid is in retreat which, when the Federation plays every single national game there, is further decreasing the sport’s footprint.
Alcobendas return fire in Spanish Rugby´s Guerra Civil
It didn’t take long for Alcobendas to make their own response. Alcobendas stated they were combating the “falsehoods issued by the FER” and that seemingly everyone knew they were getting booted before they did. Alcobendas repeated in the statement that it is the Federation’s job, and not the club’s to ensure the eligibility of players.i .e. it’s your fault FE!
— Alcobendas Rugby (@AlcobendasRugby) May 27, 2022
Alcobendas said that it was the current Spanish coach Santiago Santos and FER who desired the player to be given the right to play for the Spanish national team, and the phrase “In due course, we will provide the corresponding documents” is used. Finally, Alcobendas straight up said that “Santos lied in his interview last week” with Radio Marca Valladolid (one of Spain’s leading radio stations covering the sport).
The reaction of those outside the club was not, shall we say, positive. “You are sons of b*tches, I hope you disappear” was one of the more polite social media responses.
The war will continue but it is difficult to see how there are any winners here… Those 40,000 in the Wanda feel like a lifetime ago now.
At least this article can turn its eyes away from the turmoil, and focus on some on-the-field rugby union action.
Division de Honor sees a changing of the guard
In all the commotion it is easy to forget there was actual Rugby played over the weekend. Santboiana defeated Complutense Cisneros in the first semi-final. In fact, Cisneros reached the playoffs as the got a walkover versus Alcobendas in the quarter-final (due to Alcobendas being suspended from the league).
This year has been a close run contest too; aside from the actions by the Fed, results from the field mean that Santboiana will host the division grand final next week. It is a return to the final for Santboiana, looking to celebrate their 101st birthday with a first Division de Honor win since 2006.
📣 SÍ, SÍ, Sí, LA FINAL ÉS AQUÍ! 🏡🏟
🏆 Lluitarem per la 8️⃣ª Lliga de la nostra història a casa!
— U.E. Santboiana (@UESantboiana) May 29, 2022
More shockingly for Spanish club rugby observers, the Basque club Ordizia Rugby Elkartea stunned Valladolid’s El Salvador, with a 76th-minute try to win the match, 27-30. In any normal year, this would be huge news, with neither city rivals VRAC or El Salvador making the final for the first time since 2011. It’s only the second time this has happened since 1997, which funnily enough, was Santboiana’s last league title.
Looking ahead, Spanish Rugby needs to find a new direction and President. It also needs to strip out the amateurism that continues to hold the sport back. Recrimination and acrimony will only go so far, the changes must come to make changes that point to a new direction and horizon.
This weekend though, hopefully, fans can just get back to talking about what is happening on the field, rather than Spanish Rugby’s Guerra Civil action off of it.
Main Photo Credit:
Embed from Getty Images