The New York Cosmos may have won the 2015 Soccer Bowl, but in the world of the North American Soccer League, the recent expansion announcement into Oklahoma City is still the leading discussion topic for the second division. While a lot of the response stateside was laughter, the response in Spain was pure anger.
Once the announcement that Rayo OKC (Yes, that's still the name.), Rayo Vallecano supporters immediately began to voice their displeasure. The hashtag #PresaVeteYa broke out on Twitter, as Rayo supporters demanded that the club president Raúl Martín Presa leave the club. This is not the first issue that has arisen between the the supporters and the president.
A banner voicing this displeasure even found it's way to the streets of Madrid.
The future of Rayo is in youth development not in Oklahoma. El futuro del Rayo está en la cantera y no en Oklahoma. pic.twitter.com/ujYvUnOMuH— Paul Reidy (@paulreidy67) November 10, 2015
The supporter group Bukaneros released a long statement "NO AL RAYO OKLAHOMA". It was signed off by fellow supporter groups Bus Uno, Desperdigaos, Discapacitados, El ascenso, Federacion Penas Rayo Vallecano, Loranca, Mala Vida, Piti, Planeta Rayista, Plataforma ADRV, and Rayo Clash. The statement ridicules the club president for expanding the club's business to the United States before taking care of things at home in Madrid.
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Paul Reidy fell in love with Rayo Vallecano after a visit to Madrid back in 1993. Once he moved to Madrid in 2003, he made it a priority to secure a season ticket. Reidy talks about the joys "watching football in Vallecas has as opposed to the impressive but soulless Santiago Bernabeu".
Like most Rayo supporters, Reidy freely admits that the club is currently enjoying unprecedented success on the field under President Presa. The club has been playing offensive football under head coach Paco Jemez, and they are currently in the top flight for the fifth consecutive season which is the first time this has ever happened.
"We all know that there are three key pillars that govern the way a football club is run: sporting, economic and social," Reidy said. "Whilst Presa may have secured green ticks beside the first two, there is a massive red cross in the social side."
"The stadium is a disgrace. As of three months ago, the club had no online store. It has one now, but it only ships to Spain. Rayo is the only La Liga club without a Facebook page. The club only communicates in one language. These aren't exactly the engagement mechanisms employed by a 'global brand' as Rayo were called during the Rayo OKC presentation."
"Rayo fans love their club and are genuine football people. The social element is key for Rayo fans and this was showcased with the Carmen case last year."
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Having been to Robert F Kennedy Memorial Stadium on numerous occasions, DC United supporters can relate to a dilapidated building that's collapsing around them. The question had to be asked: Why are Rayo Vallecano owners investing in a NASL club in Oklahoma instead of either rehabilitating their current home or building a new one in Vallecas?
"The club's answer is that they are only lease holders of the stadium and just rent it out from the Madrid government. (Investing in the stadium) isn't something they want to do. I'm amazed it gets a license to let paying members of the public in. On most days, there is no running water in the bathroom taps. No toilet paper either. It's not a place you'd want to bring your kid to!"
Okay, so, the stadium upkeep isn't going that well. Surely, the players are all getting paid on time. Right?
"Last month, the reserve team and staff went unpaid for three months," Reidy said. "Yet, the club has $1 million to invest in OKC."
Rayo is the definition of a selling club in Spain. They usually only bring in out-of-contract or loan players. Plus, they've actually sold their best players over the last few years for big money: Michu (Swansea City), Javi Fuego (Valencia), and Leo Baptistao (Atletico Madrid).
With the stadium needing a face lift and the reserve team not getting paid, perhaps starting a a NASL team in Oklahoma City isn't the best idea? The last La Liga team that started a non-MLS team was Deportivo Alaves. The California Victory folded after one season, and Alaves was relegated to the Segunda Division in the same year.
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Obviously, as with any sports team, there are more casual than hardcore fans that attend the Estadio de Vallecas. What do they think about the Rayo OKC move?
""The team are doing well (by our stantards), so they are content." Reidy continued, "The OKC deal, however, has certainly pulled a great deal of the passive support into the dissenter section."
Rayo Vallecano supporters will have their first opportunity to voice their displeasure when the clubs returns home on November 29 against Athletic Bilbao. When your club's supporters are so vehemently against a decision as big as Rayo OKC, the question of just how long ownership will keep the side project afloat will be asked.
(I want to personally take the opportunity to thank Paul Reidy again for speaking to me regarding this trying situation for Rayo Vallecano supporters. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @PaulReidy67.)