Spain Gripped By Sporting 'Crisis' As Budget Cuts Take Their Toll
Recession-hobbled Spain is "increasingly having to face up to a new reality marked by stinging budget cuts that threaten the country's status as a hive of sporting excellence," according to Rogers & Mora of REUTERS. Elite competitors from athletics and swimming to rowing and gymnastics are "being denied basic facilities, face delays in grant payments and in some cases, are forced to pay for travel, accommodation and equipment." Local media talk of a "crisis" and the issue has been given an "unusual amount of coverage" alongside the latest news about La Liga sides Real Madrid and Barcelona. Gymnast Isaac Botella, who was sixth in the men's vault at the London Olympics, said, "The moment will come when all Spanish athletes are reduced to mediocrity." Kayak 2008 Gold Medallist Carlos Perez "angrily told Marca sports daily last week he would have to pay his own way to compete at the world championships in Duisburg starting next month." The tribulations of Botella, Perez and others like them are "partly the result of deep cuts to government subsidies for Spain's sports federations, part of a wider effort to rein in state spending." Public assistance totaled €76.3M in '09, but has "more than halved since then" to a mere €34.1M ($44M) this year. The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), which has a host of corporate sponsors and is "flush with cash" after a run of success in int'l tournaments, can "afford to forego its subsidy and is not affected by the cuts." For most of the rest, however, the picture "is anything but rosy." A recent report in El Pais newspaper suggested 25 of Spain's 63 federations "were flirting with bankruptcy." The plight of the Spanish Athletics Federation (RFEA) "is typical." RFEA President Jose Maria Odriozola said that its subsidy "was slashed" by 47% this year compared with '12, and had sunk to €2.8M ($3.7M) from €7M in '08. Odriozola: "We hope that the general economic situation improves and that at least this year's level of subsidy will be maintained" (REUTERS, 7/11).