A club traditionally known for infighting and conflict whether in the dressing room or board room is at it again to possible derail an outstanding season
Nobody knows why but Valencia’s social environment has traditionally been a hotbed of conflict and tension. The past few days have been a reminder.
Two appalling seasons in a row were enough for fans to call out owner Peter Lim and his business, Meriton Holdings, on their lack of fundamental knowledge of how a football club works. Things became ugly at times, but people were entitled to their opinions and complaints. After all, Lim had promised to make Valencia great again, not fight relegation.
Fast-forward to summer 2017, where the club’s top shareholder decided to appoint diplomat Anil Murthy as new president and Murthy, in turn, hand-picked professional manager Mateu Alemany, an executive with plenty of football background in Mallorca, as new CEO.
— Valencia CF English ?? (@valenciacf_en) November 8, 2017
His expertise showed when, instead of choosing Quique Setien and his fancy playing style, he bet on the solid Marcelino García Toral.
Eleven La Liga games later, Alemany’s choice has been paying off. Valencia are undefeated, with a scoring ability that rivals Barcelona and the best results in their history at this point. Happiness was spreading through the city like wildfire.
But, alas, everybody knows happiness in Valencia can’t last long. Most of the time, defeats or external circumstances are the ones to burst the bubble. This time, however, the fault lies heavily on Peter Lim himself and his in-house management, with president Murthy as the main enabler. The party-poopers were performing an inside job.
On Thursday, the club wrote an ‘editorial’ statement on its website with a revenge tone where they clearly made a difference between ‘fake’ and ‘true’ fans. This would be enough to upset Valencianistas, but a few other points made added fuel to the outrage: from the headline – “Meriton saved Valencia from collapse and is making it great again”, when arguably the club has always been great and a force in La Liga) to several unchecked facts – “fake fans have pushed the story that Valencia have always had excellent sporting records pre-Meriton and must always be in the top four”,
That claim is a pretty accurate, as Valencia have the third best record in La Liga before Meriton’s arrival and had qualified for European competitions 16 times over the last 20 years. All in all, it was a total PR disaster.
It was perceived that the harsh words were directed to twenty or thirty individuals – single shareholders who oppose their management and hooligans with violent backgrounds in the stands. But the language chosen and the timing could not have been more unfortunate: Meriton’s ‘editorial’ came only 48 hours before a shareholders meeting. An event that seemed irrelevant with the team winning, but was suddenly put into the spotlight.
As expected, a Friday evening that should have been a cakewalk was turned into a rocky ride as Murthy and the rest of Valencia’s board listened to over a dozen shareholders heavily criticizing their attitude. “If you wanted to own a Ferrari, don’t complain about its gas”, said one when referring to Meriton’s lack of understanding of how Valencia fans passionately love their club.
“If you don’t like the fanbase, there’s an easy way out: sell the club”, said another. Supporters praised Marcelino and Alemany’s work, while they slammed Murthy and Meriton for “heating up the club’s social environment when everyone was happy”.
All in all, the verbal spanking Valencia’s executive management received was only a reflection of the incredulity and disbelief of thousands of fans who, by the way, couldn’t follow the meeting live as the press was banned for the first time.
The club has had its fair share of problems in the recent past, but things seemed to be working this season and the union between team and fans was excellent. Everyone hopes this clumsy PR move on Meriton’s part doesn’t disrupt a side that is enjoying a riotous season so far. Why do you insist on risking this and making things more difficult than they are, Mr. Lim?