FIRST-TIME visitors to the Campo de Futbol de Vallecas stadium will no doubt be surprised by what they see when they go to watch La Liga club Rayo Vallecano play.
From the tiny wall that separates the pitch from the streets of the Madrid district and the lack of a big screen to show the scores and replays, to the spectators enjoying the game from the comfort of their own apartments, which overlook the ground.
The fans of the scrappy football club in this working-class neighbourhood of the Spanish capital are fiercely proud of their team and its low-rent stadium. And many have not reacted well to the latest idea from Madrid regional premier Isabel Diez Ayuso: to move the ground to somewhere else in the capital.
“We are talking to the club to look for a new location, because it is becoming increasingly unsustainable for them to remain in Vallecas,” said the conservative Partido Popular politician, speaking to Spanish sports paper As.
“The club needs a stadium adapted to the current reality,” she continued. “We have been told by Rayo that they have already seen a number of plots of land and we will soon enter into negotiations. The idea is to cede land and that they will pay for the new stadium.”
The idea was not, however, well received by some fans.
“Rayo Vallecano is part of the identity and feeling of Vallecas,” wrote Madrid councillor for the leftist Mas Madrid party, Felix Lopez-Rey on Twitter. “It is a club that breathes a neighbourhood vibe. It would be better for them to fix, expand and modernise the current stadium with the help of their fans.”
“Ayuso says it is ‘unsustainable’ for Rayo to remain in Vallecas,” added a Twitter user named Rubén. “I never thought anyone could separate one from the other, it is the heritage of the neighbourhood, but also of the city and the whole region!”
Despite the fans’ attachment to the ground, it is true that it holds just 14,500 spectators, a small amount for a team that is competing in the top flight of Spanish football against major competitors such as Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
What’s more, there are regular complaints among season ticket holders about the hours-long queues that they have to endure to buy their yearly passes, with no electronic ticketing system in place.
Should the club decide to move, however, it could be in their financial interest. Both its city rivals, Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid, sold off either a training ground or the stadium plot itself for a princely sum only to transfer elsewhere.
Whether such an operation will win the blessing of Rayo Vallecano fans or not is yet to be seen.
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