Real Betis’ hopes for a return to the top flight after a two-year absence have received a shot in the arm from Sporting Director Luis Oliver, who has revealed he will be guaranteeing payment to all staff until at least June, 2011, even if he is no longer with the club.
Betis were relegated at the end of the 2008/09 season and in July this year Manuel Ruis de Lopera, owner for the past 18 years, sold his shares to Bitton Sport, a company fronted by Oliver. However, before the deal could be ratified Judge Mercedes Alaya froze Lopera’s shareholdings after an investigation into his business dealings, leaving Oliver out of pocket.
Nonetheless, after hurriedly buying more shares from a third party Oliver was voted onto the board by existing members, only for Judge Ayala to counter this by appointing former Betis and Real Madrid idol Rafael Gordillo to administer Lopera’s shares (to make sure he wasn’t still in charge).
Gordillo is hoping to run for next club president, and this week cast doubt on whether Oliver could afford the payments necessary for the running of the club until at least the end of the season. But Oliver, speaking to the club’s official website, said:
“Given the effect the words the future presidential candidate have had on all employees, we want to make it clear our economic team will leave enough money to pay everybody between now and the end of this season. However, if something unforeseen arises, we at Bitton Sport – the company is the club’s figurehead – are committed to ensuring payment in case Real Betis is not able to.
Oliver went further: “Bitton guarantees any salaries will be honoured by ourselves, who are the future owners, and this is what I have told the players, management and everyone connected with the club. Everybody knows that if I’ve ever promised anything then I’ve kept my word”he added.
Manager Pepe Mel has guided the team to the top of the second division – five points clear of Rayo Vallecano and having suffered only one defeat in twelve games – with the club enjoying one of the best starts in its history. Oliver paints a bright future if, and when, Betis remains in his hands:
“I want to thank all Béticos for the love and support they have shown”he said. “We are moving forward and in a few months have managed to turn this thing round 180 degrees, modernising and restructuring for the enjoyment of all. There are many people working day and night for the good of the club and finally, after many years, the supporters are happy – that’s priceless. We are devoting all our time to this project and the results are the fruit of that.”
“If they leave us alone we will make Betis great again, and very soon we will be back amongst the best. That is our goal and we won’t stop until we achieve it. We are concerned in case some people come and disturb the harmony and unity that exists between the team, management and fans, but we are in an enviable position and can’t let anything alter our charge towards the first division”he concluded.