Interviews

Q&A WITH LENDOIRO

23 Dec 2008
On the verge of this year’s shareholders meeting, president Augusto C?©sar Lendoiro talked with newspaper Xornal de Galicia and analysed the present of the club. He revealed that he was near to close the sell of Deportivo one year ago, and also showed his confidence in the future of the club.

Q: Seventh in la liga, three points from the Champions League and alive in three competitions ... the sporting situation of the club is excellent, but there is a debt of 160 million Euros.
A: The debt-status of a football club is very relative. Surely today it’s significantly less, because there are accounts that are interpreted in a manner and at the present time, at the end of 2008, it should be interpreted otherwise. Deportivo's debt comes from many years, from the years of the titles, the Champions (League), which has been our memorable history. To face it, we have reduced the annual budget by 8, 10, and 12%.

Q: So you salary has also been modified.
A: Yes, it was reduced. The salary of the president is marked by the budget, and as soon as we leave it on 40 or 45 million euros, Deportivo will be a perfectly feasible club.

Q: Are you are the one that earns the most?
A: There are many Depor’s players who are paid more than I do.

Q: And the agreements with the public and financial institutions?
A:  Talking about the debt, they are up to date, therefore we should not have any problem with the future of the club. Still, nobody should forget that we are in a time of crisis. This, possibly, has come out before in football than in the business sector or the finances. And we should not ask to football what you normally ask to the banks, real estate or to the media. Football is just one more part of society, albeit with some bad press. Sometimes is difficult to understand that criticism in the media when a club receives a grant, this taking in mind that the same media is the most subsidized sector by the Galician government.

Q: Why there are no aids?
A: Firstly, because there are many heavyweights from the political, financial and business institutions that you are afraid of La Voz de Galicia. That paper is doing everything possible to prevent the club to receive aids.

Q: Maybe the club, at its best season, has not managed to find support.
A: We need to be realistic and Deportivo is what it is. It’s the representative of a city with 250,000 inhabitants and a representative of the Galician community with less than three million in which, unfortunately, we're lacking solidarity. We do not support us at the key moments. Deportivo has no sponsor and is the only Galician team that’s playing at the elite. Therefore, we could be the bearers of the Xacobeo, besides to other Galician clubs and other sports, something that would be a very nice initiative from the Galician regional government, as the Xacobeo gives much. But for this we must have the conviction that sport is the major vehicle of communication that Galicia has in order to reach the whole world. Recently, in a very good article at Xornal, it was left clear the idea that Galicia is known in the world for its football. So I say to the Galician regional government, after sending a letter to them requesting for a hearing, that I will like to address this issue. I am convinced that Depor, after the Apostle, is the best ambassador of Xacobeo.

Q: Will they accept the meeting?
A: The saddest thing is that they didn’t answer us. I guess they know I have left politics completely since I committed to Real Club Deportivo almost ten years ago. I believe that civilized people should talk and exchange ideas. I've spent a lifetime in public, and I think I deserve respect. The fact that I didn’t get a reply to my request, because they told me to do it in this way when these efforts began, is something that makes me feel sad. I am hoping that one day, I may have the satisfaction of reaching an agreement with the Galician regional government. The deputation of A Coru?±a, for example, I've been the president of it, it has eliminated all the little aids had with Deportivo since Salvador Fern??ndez Moreda is president.

Q: And what about the City Hall of A Coru?±a?
A: I am not welcomed there. However, I have always shown me with open arms and able to reach agreements with the mayor Losada Tello. I do not understand this situation. We are doing much harm to Deportivo and that means to hurt the city and Galicia. Augusto C?©sar Lendoiro, ultimately, is a representative of the club, nothing more, and he represents nearly 20,000 members and 30,000 shareholders.

Q: So much is the hate for Lendoiro?
A: I can not answer that question. But it’s really sad, because I have given all my life to public life. I have been president of a football club since I was fifteen, I engaged myself to sporting, social and cultural activities, and, therefore, I think I deserve respect. Sure I was wrong on many things, but I have always done what I thought was important for the city, for the province and for Galicia.

Q: Taking in mind the economic situation, does the shareholder have a reason to be worried?
A: At the moment we live, if someone is not worried is because is not aware that we are living an economic crisis that’s affecting everyone, not just the world of football, which is discussed in the media. People prefer to read news about football rather to read we are on the verge of a hole. Football, as usual, was ahead of the Spanish crisis, at Europe and in a global level. Why we can not make those transfers of four and five million euros? Well, because you can not sell those apartments at the same prices sold before. Who could have thought the government would be giving aids or subsidies to the banks? however, people see with bad eyes when they help a club. It's Kafkaesque.

Q: When you assumed your role at the club in 1988, would you have signed to win six titles and a Champions League semi-final at the expense of the debt had now by Depor?
A: If someone tells me at the time that we could win six titles, I would have called him crazy. What we got is something without a market price. If you value the title in 160 million euros, only (Real) Madrid or Barca could afford it.

Q: Can you be more specific?
A: I have never thought in the debt. Probably my mistake was to not sell anybody to avoid weakening the team. If I have done that, the economic situation would be another one. And so it would have been if the public and private institutions, the politicians and television officials that have promised me a major support, would have fulfilled their word. You can not look back. The cost we had has been worthy, because the feelings lived by the Galicians and the athletes of the world is something priceless. As the Riazor Blues say: we can never forget that Deportivo won the league. With regard to the debt, we know we have to pay and we will pay.

Q: Who denied this support?
A: In politics they say: "Well, calm down, we will solve things." But in football you can not wait too much and we must make quick decisions, as is done elsewhere. How do I complain to see them refinancing the sporting city of Real Madrid? Who has done more for Madrid than Real Madrid? Who has done more for Barcelona and Catalonia than Bar?§a? Who has done more for Galicia than Deportivo? The sad thing is that in Galicia, we have to work in worse conditions than others. When they said that we, the Galicians, will be equal to the Basques, Catalans or Madrilenians ... It's a lie. They do have rights. The case of Athletic (Bilbao) is really curious: they have Petronor as shirt sponsor and we have a refinery over here. The Asturians, for example, have at their shirts the legend â€?Gij??n’ or â€?Asturias’. That is something we need to analyse, but not just for Depor: sports is the best vehicle we have to reach the world.

Q: The problem might be Lendoiro
A: Maybe. But if someone comes and offers an alternative for solving the problems that Deportivo has, either putting himself in front of the club or otherwise, there will not be a problem to see Lendoiro leaving the boat. The solution offered has to be a quality one: we are not going to miss the work of 20 years.

Q: Did we had any investor who has been close to buy the club?
A: There was a time when it was close to occur. Even we gave a handshake as a sign the agreement was closed, but at the moment of truth ... it was something serious, but it coincided with a very bad time of Deportivo, exactly a year ago. Everything happened at the Playa Club and there are witnesses on my part and for the other part. I will not say his name, but it was a Spanish businessman with operations in foreign countries.

Q: Why the deal was not closed?
A: I think that for fear of falling to Segunda. That threw him back.

Q: He was buying the club?
A: He was fulfilling the increase in the capital.

Q: And what happened to the increase of the capital?
A: It didn’t work because there was no support. It wasn’t encouraged neither by the public institutions, nor the financial entities nor the media. It was a very favorable situation.

Q: Should an investor arrive in order to see Deportivo wining titles?
A: A budget of Champions League is beyond the 100 million euros. That is a problem of money.

Q: Have you thought at some moment about the benefit from Ley Concursal (Bankruptcy Act)?
A: Not at all. Precisely what we are doing is in order to not take that risk, to lower the budget substantially. Deportivo can afford the debt in the expected way, because the deadline is on eight or nine years. That does not mean that, perhaps within a time, and to make it more livable, we can refinance and extend the deadline.

Q: What do the fans say to you on the street?
A: I am a very shy person, although they may think otherwise. People hardly approach me. But the most significant fact on this issue may be than more than a thousand people have sent a letter as they want us to be their representatives in the shareholders meeting and that without been requested. This is what has been produced in previous years despite what La Voz de Galicia has wrote, and no matter what other critical sources have said about Deportivo. But the voting in the meetings are always favorable to us in a 90% for our management. And that, after twenty years of this Council, which has hardly changed, is something that has been very important in the history of the club and is really rewarding. And I mean that the Governing Council shall endeavor to resolve this situation and resolve it well.

Q: Can you promise to the fans and partners of Deportivo that the club is financially viable?
A: That can not be told to anyone because, no matter how good we do our work, three clubs ends relegated. The big advantage we have to see people believing in the future is what we did.

Q: What do you think about the agreement between Celta and Caixanova?
A: I don’t know the details of the agreement, but I applaud it. Celta Vigo is very important to the city of Vigo and today, Vigo is much less Vigo than when Celta was at the Champions League or the UEFA. At that time, and unless some very isolated news, people were just talking of Vigo due to Celta.

Q: And your relationship with the media?
A: I’m dragging a slab of my time as a politician. La Voz de Galicia was a major defender of Francisco Vazquez and I was being persecuted because he was the opposition. Here all the persecution begun, because I started in politics in 1987, and at Deportivo in 1988. Since that time, I can no longer count with the support from La Voz and so far we have come. At that point begins the treatment to Deportivo now, since there is no point in having such opposition to a club that helps them to sell newspapers.

Q: When Francisco Vasquez left the city hall, that problem would have disappeared, right?
A: The problem should never exist and I’m trying to erase it. I attended to the inauguration of Mayor Losada, we had a reunion where we professed eternal love, but ultimately he was not allowed to do so much and we return to the issue of La Voz. For those who do not know the situation may seem like a Chinese story, but it is reality. That paper represents who are the Galician bosses and then they spoke of freedom of expression, when all are trying to achieve the best for La Coru?±a and Galicia.

Q: What is the solution?
A: Well, that someone at some point, something that should not be easy, tell the editor of this newspaper that this can not be. People have to talk sited at the table, not under the table. That’s what I always say to the politicians, financiers, athletes, businessmen, and so on. We can not be afraid of Santiago Rey (owner of La Voz). I have nothing against Santiago Rey. I would be the first one to sit and talk in order to find the appropriate solutions, not only for Deportivo, which I represent, but for A Coru?±a, Galicia, but on the basis of equality and not a fear that, unfortunately, is presiding over all these actions which are extremely negative for Galicia. Hopefully, politicians will realize about this.

Q: Realize about what?
A: It is not normal for a person to impose his or her views. You recently have experienced this at first hand: the exit to the street of Xornal of Galicia (the newest paper in Galicia), which has created a virulent response from La Voz. It was always said that any birth of a paper is positive. When Franco died, we all were excited about the fact that the press would be free, but I found out that it is not. So it is outrageous that a leading member of the press can make statements like that.

Q: Do you feel compensated as Deportivo’s president?
A: I like to be president of Deportivo, club in which I have spent twenty years and especially the last ten as a fully dedicated my body and soul to it, because I have no business. Am I compensated? I guess so. In Madrid you need to have breakfast every day with one or two important toads, but when you go down the street the situation is different, and when you go through Spain, Europe or America, the view of Deportivo is incredible. The affection you get is spectacular. Outside the city we have no contraindications. In Madrid we have opponents, who are not many, but they are well fed.

Q: Luis Suarez has always said that he feels more appreciated abroad than in Spain.
A: Yes. I agree, but not in my case, but in the one of Deportivo. Outside, nobody understands what we have achieved. Just remember the times when our successes was justified by drugs or by Inditex.

Is Amancio Ortega a shareholder of the club?
A: Yes, I do not know if personally, but through his companies, sure. It was published he had donated 8,000 million pesetas to Depor. No, no, no. They should be wrong. Would be eight (he laughs).

Q: What has been your biggest mistake?
A: Wanting to be champion. We are paying and will pay for it. But we are champions.

Q: Do you think that it was worthy to suffer the debt for what has been lived?
A: Yes, and it will be evaluated further. While it is true that it will be almost impossible to re-live what we have lived. The amount of needed money to make any signing is each time bigger. Cristiano Ronaldo could be worth a similar amount of Deportivo’s debt and we, with that money, have lived during the past 18 years of success.

Q: There are people who would love you to disappear from Depor, however, there is no alternative ...
A: It's true. Perhaps because we are not doing things so badly and it is difficult to do it better. Still, some sectors might be asking for my resignation, but I've never seen a â€?pa?±olada’ at the Riazor. Maybe I've seen some shareholders meeting were you were winning with a 95 or 97% in favor, three, five or fifty people who said it was time to see me leaving, but they never presented an alternative.

Q: Will Lotina continue?
A: I would like to see his continuity and I hope he thinks the same.

Q: And Manuel Pablo?
A: We have begun to speak, and I hope that it will be fulfilled taking in mind the conditions that currently exists at Depor for the players above the 30’s, which is to renew contracts annually.

Q: Will we have a new stadium?
A: That issue has not even spoken, but nobody should forgive about it: A Coru?±a won’t host the 2018 World Cup without a stadium, I am sure Spain will host the event, with the correspondent loss of visibility and income.

Q: If you would have the opportunity to sign a contract to ensure the continuity at Primera during the next ten years but without winning a title, would you sign it?
A: Yes, being at Primera is the most important thing. So we must try to stay at Primera with the revenues of Primera. With that, quite logically, Deportivo will have a very dignified life.

ARCHIVE NEWS DEC/08

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