La Liga officials have announced that Elche will be forcibly relegated for financial reasons. The Liga season finished with Cordoba, Almeria and Eibar in the relegation positions with Elche in 13th, six points ahead of Eibar. Elche have been demoted from La Liga because of unpaid tax and Eibar will take their place in Spain’s top flight next season. Elche were promoted to La Liga as champions of the second tier in 2013, finishing 16th and 13th since then and drawing averaging crowds of over 25,000.
Valencian side had been warned that they faced sanctions due to unpaid tax debts of €3.6 million and other financial problems that remain unresolved despite a new board taking charge in April. Elche, who finished the season in 13th place in the standings, were punished for “very serious infractions” of Spain’s sports law and league rules and also fined £130,000.
Juan Anguix, the Elche president, had hoped to convince a judge that the club would be able to pay off their debts, but Manuel Rivero González disagreed and sent them down to the second tier of Spanish football. “This is the biggest injustice that Spanish football has committed,” Elche president Juan Anguix told reporters. “We will take the fight to be proved right as far as we can.” Based near Alicante in south-east Spain, Elche have already said they would appeal if they were relegated over their tax debts, which they have insisted are due to be settled in full by the end of July.
LFP have gone ahead with the announcement of their decision, saying it had found the club guilty of multiple breaches of the regulations. “La Liga’s social discipline judge has ruled against Elche as a consequence of the debts they have with the national tax authorities,” the statement said. “The judge has agreed to impose on Elche the sanction of relegation as it has reoffended in its behavior, having already been punished last season.”
The LFP’s statement said that Elche has also been fined €180,000, with the severity of the punishment explained as a reaction to Elche having already fallen foul of rules in the past but failing to put things right.
Elche’s debts have seen them enter administration, and on Friday morning a judge ruled that they must suffer relegation to the Segunda Division. For much of last season, Elche players and staff were unpaid for long spells. The latest developments mean coach Fran Escriba and players including Brazilian striker Jonathas are likely to be immediate targets for other clubs.
Basque club Eibar were playing in La Liga for the first time in 2014-15 and went down on the final day of the season after finishing 18th.