Spanish league finale overshadowed by stadium collapse
Osasuna had taken the lead against Real Betis when fence gave way
Nearly 60 fans injured, but none seriously
Osasuna win, but are relegated into Spain's second division
It had always been a day destined for thrills and spills, but Sunday’s denouement to the Spanish league season ended in chaos as a vital relegation match between Osasuna and Real Betis at the El Sadar stadium, Pamplona, was halted after a barrier collapsed, injuring almost 60 people.
Osasuna fans surged forwards when Oriol Riera scored a 12th minute goal, in a game the home team had to win to have any chance of avoiding relegation.
But a metal fence collapsed under the weight of people, sparking scenes of chaos as the match was suspended.
Fans were ferried from the scene on stretchers as the authorities assessed the damage, tended to the wounded and made emergency repairs to the broken fence.
Ten people were taken to hospital whilst another 48 people were treated for minor injuries at the scene.
“It had been many years since I had been to El Sadar,” Real Betis coach Gabriel Humberto Calderon said after the game, according to AFP.
“I was surprised by the state of the stadium in 2014 and the politicians need to do something to have a stadium that belongs to 2014 and Osasuna.”
The match was restarted 35 minutes later, from the 11th minute. Almost immediately Osasuna went 2-0 up against a Betis side already relegated.
But the delay had caused a dilemma.
The matches involving teams fighting relegation were due to start and finish at the same time so not to give one team an advantage over the others.
Controversially, it was decided to extend half time at the other games so that the second halves across Spain would kick off at the same time.
Osasuna went on to win the match 2-1, but it wasn’t enough. Granada’s 1-0 victory over Valladolid meant that the result in Pamplona was immaterial.
“It is a very sad day personally and professionally for me,” Osasuna boss Javi Gracia told AFP after the game.
“I am very sorry that the team has been relegated. I am sorry for the situation we have come to and I hope Osasuna will be back in the Primera as soon as possible.
“Despite winning, we didn’t have it in our own hands and the results didn’t go our way. At this time any analysis of the game and the situation has no meaning for me given the moment in which the team, the club and everyone is experiencing.”
Elsewhere, Getafe ensured they will be in Spain’s top tier next season after Romanian international Ciprian Marica scored twice to beat Rayo Vallecano 2-1. Almeria’s 0-0 draw against Athletic Bilbao was enough to ensure their safety too.
But the enduring image from the final day of the Spanish season will be of a catastrophe narrowly avoided.