This article was translated by John R. Bopp

The New Indian Express is a newspaper published in India in English.  Today, this newspaper has £surprised us talking about Basque matters in an editorial in the sports section, where they talk about the cession agreements the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and the football team West Ham have reached to use the London Olympic Stadium, which was the primary stadium for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, as the club’s football stadium.   

The “rental” agreement of this field is generating a lot of controversy in the United Kingdom, and as we can see, in India, too.  We’re not going to go into the details of this affair, as we can get that from this article from SkySports (which will also help our readers understand some of the references made in the Indian newspaper).  But we are going to say that the construction of this stadium had a cost of £537 million (€676 million; US$762 million), to which we must add the £272 million (€342 million; US$386 million) it’s taken to turn it into a football stadium.

West Ham football club is going to pay £2.5 million annually to use it 25 times a year.  This will also allow the club to sell the land its old field is on as developable land.  This is an agreement that, as can bee seen and imagined, ic causing controversy, especially for the Leyton Orient Football Club, which had wanted to share the stadium with West Ham.  We can read the club’s ex-president’s hard opinions on the matter in the SkySports article.  

Why are we bringing all this up?  Because in this editorial in the New Indian Express, they’ve had the great idea to compare this agreement with the one that was reached for using the new San Mamés Stadium by Athletic Bilbao, with the objective of convincing their readers that the agreement reached for the Bilbao field is much more favorable for the Basque team than the corresponding one for the English.  

As we’ve said on a few occasions, we’re not in favor of using public money for the construction of football stadia that are destined to be used exclusively by professional, first-division football teams that have large profits year after year.  But comparing one case to the other is an “insult to the intelligence of the readers (of the Indian newspaper)”.

The costs of one field or the other are incomparable.  The new San Mamés Stadium cost approximately €200 million (£159 million; US$226 million), compared to the €342 million the last adaptation of the London field to be used as a football stadium has cost (not even counting the €676 it cost to build).  Furthermore, the new Bilbao stadium occupies basically the same land the old one occupied, and the land that was freed will not be used to the football team’s benefit.  There will also be installations inside the stadium that are open to the public, and which will be managed at the municipal level (which, by the way, is something that needs to get started).

Current West Ham stadium in London.  A classical beauty that is similar to many Basque fields (be they still around or not).
Current West Ham stadium in London.  A classical beauty that is similar to many Basque fields (be they still around or not).

But this is not what has offended us as Basque readers.  What has it the article author’s description (signed by the newspaper itself, leading us to believe it’s an editorial) of the situation of the Basque economy.

He labels us as a “country (that’s) virtually bankrupt”, confusing the situation of the economy and Spanish institutions with that of the economic situation and institutions of the Basque Autonomous Community (BAC).  It’s obvious that the global, international crisis has affected the Basque economy, but even at it’s worst moment, it was far from being “virtually bankrupt”.  It’s clear that the author does not know how Basque institutions are structures within the BAC, nor does he seem to know about the Economic Agreement and Concert, nor that the Basques in the BAC and Navarre have our own Revenue Services we pay our taxes to, nor what the Basque economic structure is like.  It definitely looks like they’re imagining us as sangría drinkers, thanks to the “sun, bulls, flamenco, siesta, sangria, and beach bar” look that Franco and the restored Spanish monarchy have insisted on perpetuating in the last 40 years.

The same with the reference to the BBK.  BBK/Kutxabank is one of the healthy financial institutions, which hasn’t received a cent from the European Union nor from any entity of reserve fund for “saving banks”.  What’s more, it’s had to suffer under especially hard legislation to continue keeping its social function, to which it dedicates a large part of its profits, as well as to cultural and social activities in its coverage area

In this case, the phrase used in the times of Francoist minister Fraga Iribarne to promote Spain during the dictatorship in the ‘60s also applies to us: the Basque Country is different.  But it seems that, to finish off confusing their readers, the newspaper assures that the European Union is investigating to see if the construction of the new San Mamés stadium breaks any communitary law.  It may be that, beacuse of how distance modifies perspective, that the author has confused Athletic with Real Madrid, because the latter team is being investigated by the European Commission for a matter regarding terrain classification. Athletic is not being investigated because of San Mamés, but because it may turn into a Sports Corporation rather than a Club.

We even have politicians, even Basque politicians, who are trying to create a problem where the Commission has spent years not seeing one.  UPyD MEP Maite Pagazartundua asked the Commission in writing in May of 2015 about this matter and the Commission’s response is clear.  

Along with this huge mistake (normal for someone who just copies and pastes, and accepts the first thing seen on the internet as true, not trusting professional journalists), we can see how, by applying the principle of “sowing doubt even if it’s a falsehood”, the Indian newspaper insinuates, that this investigation, which does not exist, is being held back because the Commissioner until 2014 was from Bilbao.

We don’t know how things work in India.  But it seems that the idea of nepotism is very ingrained.  In Europe, laws are usually applied generally, regardless of whether any of the parties involved are from one city or another, or of one club or another, or of one clan (or caste) or another, because, normally (no institution is perfect), these decisions don’t depend on the will of one person.

It’s worth reminding everyone how the European Commission, during the presidency of Bilbao native Joaquín Almunia, managed to almost completely destroy the Basque shipbuilding industry by insisting that the tax lease approved by Basque and Spanish authorities was illegal.  Fortunately, European courts have ruled that the Commission was in the wrong.  

We would like to give a general recommendation to this newspaper that is about to turn 100 years old: before writing something, get informed.  Your readers and the Truth will thank you.

The New Indian Express – 17/4/2016 – India

Bilbao Stadium Deal Puts West Ham Agreement Into Perspective

If Barry Hearn thinks his dog could have negotiated the sweetheart deal that the London Legacy Development Corporation struck with West Ham United for the Olympic Stadium then he should cast an eye over the agreement Athletic Bilbao reached for their new San Mames stadium. To borrow once more from the stock list of dog-based analogies, the financing of Athletic’s euros 210 million (pounds 166 million) San Mames was not just a tail-wagger for Bilbao’s famous football club, it was, so to speak, exclusive use of the sofa indefinitely and freedom to chew just about any slipper they fancied.

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