A Lleida Esportiu on the edge of the abyss finds a buyer

January 26, 2022

Two weeks after being expelled from the Camp d’Esports, Lleida Esportiu already has a new owner. As the club has announced in a statement, the group of Luis Pereira will go on to seize the rudder of a ship that was sinking. This Galician businessman will be responsible for the 250,000 euros of salary debt that the entity drags (between the current squad and the former players there are 32 complaints filed), although the total debt could amount to almost 10 million.

The Lleida Esportiu was born in 2011 from the ashes of the Lleida Sports Union, which after having played in the First Division in the 93-94 season, lowered the blind in Second B after 72 years of existence. Since then the new club has survived in the third state category, but a decade after its reincarnation it had once again peeked into the abyss: this Wednesday it only had 10 players from the first team after so many others have left since Christmas, fed up of the non-payments that had caused some to have to leave their flats because they could not pay the rent.

‘New fire’

“The time has come to do ‘foc nou’ and have another team in the city that represents us in a dignified way. From Paeria we will help in whatever is necessary,” said the mayor, Miquel Pueyo, when on January 12 the council gave the entity a month to leave the municipal facilities. A decision made because “the image given by Lleida Esportiu in recent months has damaged the city’s image”.

The rupture of the agreement signed in 2017 was due to the non-payment of the payroll of the players and coaching staff and also to the Social Security and Treasury (as of December 2019, Lleida already owed the Tax Agency 1,587,075.99 euros). Protests on and off the pitch against the Esteve brothers were a constant in recent times and recriminatory graffiti abounded on the walls of the stadium. Until now, the owners had hardly spoken in public about their criticized management.

The lowest point occurred on October 5 when the Civil Guard, in collaboration with officials from the Labor Inspection, entered the offices of the Lleida Esportiu as part of the Operation Strike 11, in which alleged crimes of Social Security fraud and money laundering are investigated.

The brothers Jordi and Albert Esteve, hitherto co-owners of the club, took over a decade ago after Annabel Junyent, who had won the auction to inherit the Plaza del Lleida, did not present the guarantee. Tatxo Benet, owner of UE Lleida for 12 years, had transferred his package of shares to him in 2010, but Junyent was unable to prevent the club from going bankrupt, nor was he able to raise the million euros to which he had pledged to inherit the federative rights.

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11 point program

Some businessmen had shown interest in taking over the reins of a club that carries debts of almost 10 million euros. Finally, Luis Pereira’s group will be in charge of trying to refloat the ship. The announcement of the transfer of powers comes a day after no representative of Lleida Esportiu went to court in an appearance in which Pereira requested the appointment of a judicial administrator. On December 15, he had requested, through a burofax, his entry and that of four more people as partners. Not receiving a response, I file the lawsuit, attaching an 11-point program to refloat the entity and also the notarized proof that I had deposited 100,000 euros in a bank account. At the same time, he had presented to the Federation, with thirty partners, a five-year disqualification lawsuit against the Esteve brothers, who had until Friday to present allegations.