Friday, 22 May 2009

Real Ávila Club de Fútbol

Real Ávila Club de Fútbol was originally called Avila Football Club, but when King Alfonso VIII was made the honorary chairman in 1925, the name was changed to its present one. This is a bit like Real Madrid and a team can only get the Real status if there is, or has been, a Royal connection. Football is the national sport of Spain and it is immensely popular. The top clubs play in La Liga and below that the Spanish league is divided into three main divisions, two of which are sub-divided into regional competitions. Like La Liga (division1), division 2a is a national league for the top Spanish clubs with plenty of money. Division 2b is divided into four regional leagues, central, north, east and south, (perhaps they don't play football in the west?) and division 3 consists of local groups that are regionalised to sensibly cut down on travelling and expense. This is important because Spain is a big country and the logistics of transport would make it difficult, not just for traveling fans but for the football clubs themselves, to get to away games in time for kick off.

The third division is divided into eighteen regions corresponding to the autonomous communities of Spain, except for Andalusia which is itself divided into two, east and west, because it is so large and even includes teams from the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa.

Until I became interested in Spain I didn’t know that about Ceuta and Melilla but they exist because when Spain recognised the independence of Spanish Morocco in 1956 these two cities and a number of small islands remained under Spanish rule as they were considered integral parts of the Spanish state. The government of Morocco has repeatedly called for Spain to transfer the sovereignty of the two cities drawing comparisons with Spain's own territorial claim to Gibraltar but in both cases of dispute the national governments and the local populations of the territories reject these claims by a large majority. The Spanish position states that both Ceuta and Melilla are integral parts of the Spanish state, and have been since the fifteenth century, whereas Gibraltar, being a British Overseas Territory, is not and never has been part of the United Kingdom.

Anyway, back to football. Real Ávila play in group eight of the Tercera División which is based in Castilla y Leon and after the home defeat to Arandina on the 22nd March they had a spectacularly successful end to the season, they didn’t lose another match, winning six and finishing with a 3-3 draw at home with the division champions, Palencia. Arandina also had a good finish and they didn’t lose a match either but with only four victories had to settle for fifth place, one below the play off places. Real Ávila finished in the top four places so go on to the finals looking for a promotion to division 2b. The club last played in this higher division in the 1980-81 season when they were relegated. They are not very good at getting promoted however because they have played in the play off finals in three out of the last four seasons and have always been unsuccessful.

The format of the play off finals is new this year and is really complicated. The eighteen group winners are drawn into a two-legged series and the nine winners are then automatically promoted to the Segunda División B. The nine losing clubs then enter the play off round for the last nine promotion spots. The eighteen runners-up are drawn against one of the seventeen fourth-place clubs outside their own group and the eighteen third-placed clubs are drawn against each other in a two-legged series. The twenty-seven winners then advance with the nine losing clubs from the champions' series to determine the eighteen teams that will enter the last two-legged series for the last nine promotion spots.

After the play offs and when the eighteen promoted sides are sorted out the Spanish Football Authorities then have to sit down and have a think about which of the four regional groupings the promoted clubs will play in based on their geographic location. I bet that takes some working out!

Real Ávila finished in fourth spot in group 8 and therefore have to face a runner-up from one of the other groups. This year they have been drawn against Almeria from Andalusia group 9 and the two legs will be played during the last week in May on the 24th at home and the return fixture away on the 31st.

No comments: