Tiny Eibar promoted to La Liga for the first time in the club's history
The Basque team will be the smallest to ever compete in Spain's top division
But financial rules dictate it must raise $2.3 million to avoid relegation instead
Eibar is a town of just 27,000 in the Basque mountains near Bilbao
There is only one fairytale story in Spanish soccer this season, but will it have a happy ending?
Forget Atletico Madrid’s first league title for 18 years, disregard its city neighbor Real concluding an exhaustive wait for “La Decima” – a 10th European Champions League crown.
Because this season is all about the “Miracle of Eibar.”
The Basque town has a population of just 27,000 and the club a budget dwarfed by almost all its rivals, yet back-to-back promotions have banked Eibar a place in the big time.
Having already guaranteed a top-tier place, Eibar also claimed the Spanish second division title after second-placed Deportivo La Coruna lost 3-1 at Girona on Saturday.
For the first time in its 74-year history Eibar will compete in La Liga next season, rubbing shoulders with Real Madrid and Barcelona as well as local rivals Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao.
“I don’t know if miracles exist but this is something close to a miracle,” Alex Aranzabal, club president since 2009, told CNN.
However, amid all the emotion and reverence there is a bitter tinge, because like every famous fairytale fable, the threat of tragedy lurks in the background.
Despite being self-sustaining and completely free of debt – unlike a host of other Spanish clubs – Eibar could actually be relegated to the third tier of Spanish football.
A 1999 decree requires every team to have a capital equal to 25% of the average expenses of all sides in the second division, excluding the two clubs with the biggest outgoings and the two with the smallest.
That has hoisted the financial bar way above the head of Eibar, which has responded by launching a share issue to raise the €1.7 million ($2.3 million) needed to take a place at Spain’s top table.
Unsurprisingly, Aranzabal is unimpressed.
While he runs an admittedly small but undoubtedly tight ship, the estimated combined debts of Real Madrid and Barcelona amount to not far off €1 billion ($1.36 billion).
“Even though we have a small budget, we have a different economic model to other clubs in Spain,” Aranzabal told CNN. “We have less expenses, fewer outgoings and we always have a small deficit.
“This is something really strange in Spain because almost every team has huge debt, but in our case we have no debt.
“We think it is really unfair because the law was established to assure that all those clubs with a lot of debt had a minimum capital value to attend to all their debts.
“In our case we don’t have any debt.”
The club’s story has struck a chord with football-loving people the world over, and support has been flooding in for its “Defend Eibar” campaign.
Over €1.25 million ($1.7 million) has already been raised, the club’s tentacles spreading far and wide thanks to pledges from China, Australia, Argentina, England, Ireland and many more countries.
Crucially, no investor can purchase more than €100,000 worth of shares, ensuring Eibar’s principles are kept intact.
“We want the team to remain for the people – this is one of the ideas of our special model,” Aranzabal explains.
“We very much appreciate all the help we have had – it has been surprising for us, a small club in a small town in the Basque mountains.
“We have discovered that we have a story to tell and that people want hear stories like this, that we are fighting against this rule and we have achieved something big.
“I hope we will get the money but we have to keep going – if we relax it is the shortest way to failure. It will be difficult but we will get it.”