Most of you will know that Marbella is a place on the southern coast of Spain, known as a bit of a tourism hotspot if you’ll excuse the pun. As part of the Costa Del Sol, Marbella attracts plenty of tourists every year to its 27km of sandy beach. You may not have realised that Marbella also has a pretty loyal football following, with the local side being Union Deportiva Marbella (UD Marbella for short). Nor should you have realised to be frank. UD Marbella are a small Spanish side, playing in a stadium with a minimal capacity and currently sitting in the lower mid-table places in the Spanish Tercera Division Group IX. Not exactly dominating Barcelona or Real Madrid in La Liga. What is worth knowing about UD Marbella is that the side were taken over by foreign owners a few years before their neighbours Malaga. Here we see the difference a short coach ride can make.
In September 2007, UD Marbella were taken over by English businessmen Ian Radford and Wayne Elliot. Along with Alfredo Guerisoli, the trio had intended to bring UD Marbella to the attention of the footballing world, and use the tourism associated with the Costa Del Sol to breed a new set of fans and lift UD Marbella to the next stage. At the time of the takeover, UD Marbella were in the Segunda Division B, two from La Liga, and were a bit of a yo-yo team (UD Marbella finished 15th, 5th, 12th, 7th, 15th and 4th before finishing the 09/10 season in 19th and relegation). UD Marbella fans, few that they may be compared to the larger Spanish sides, are said to be fiercely loyal to their side. That loyal bunch would probably have been delighted when the British tourism that props up the town economy were suddenly linked to potentially propping up the clubs coffers. Unfortunately for them it was never to be and, as previously said, the club were relegated at the end of the 2009-2010 Spanish season.
Now if you have not switched off by this point you’re probably thinking to yourself “hang on, UD Marbella? They are certainly no Barca or Madrid, they have no super rich owners and have no chance of achieving promotion to, let alone challenge for, La Liga. Why am I reading this?”. Well you have a point. UD Marbella only came to my attention when in 2008 they signed the man mountain that is Carl Cort. That’s right, the same Carl Cort who stained Bobby Robson’s almost perfect managerial career when the legendary manager signed him for £7million. Perhaps Jose Mourinho heard Sir Bobby’s plans to sign Carl Cort and decided against the assistant manager position at Newcastle Football Club. Whatever your opinion of Carl Cort, the player was due to be UD Marbella’s marque signing to bring the British tourists into the stadium. Imagine that, Carl Cort the tourist attraction. As previously said, the side were a yo-yo team prior to their relegation and as a result the British tourists never showed up and Carl Cort soon disappeared too. Maybe because the tourism season does not really clash with the football season but who can say for sure.
What we can see is that at neighbouring Malaga there is a steady set of British fans within La Rosaleda Stadium all year long, even before the rather confusing rags to riches back to rags story of the past season. UD Marbella must be cursing their luck that they could not attract such foreign attention. Malaga and other cities like Paris are very popular tourist destinations and as such make great acquisitions for big spending football fans. Whilst Marbella is amongst the destinations of sun seekers the world over, it is not Malaga, and certainly not Paris. Therefore it is perhaps not surprising their own ownership change did not match that of their local rivals. What we can say is that perhaps in the future we should look to other tourist destinations to see where the next take over will be. Maybe somewhere in Greece will be the next destination for a pleasure seeker seeking sun seeker money. Maybe somewhere closer to home like Blackpool or Scarborough? UD Marbella shows us that a takeover is not necessarily a sign of positive change. Not that we are short of examples here in the UK. A quick look back at Portsmouth over the past few years tells us that. What differs with Marbella is that the club, however optimistic and however many Carl Corts arrive, were thinking about bringing in bigger crowds rather than jumping the leagues quickly with some big spending. Despite it not working out the attempt should be applauded. Hopefully more successful instances of such ownership will appear in the future.
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