Cuenca’s professional football team, Deportivo Cuenca, could go out of business if it can’t pay its bills. “The financial situation is bleak and unless a solution is found very quickly, the football team will not play this weekend,” says former club president Mario Esteban.
Among the club’s outstanding debts that must be paid immediately, according to Esteban, are back pay to players and staff, expenses for using Alejandro Serrano Aguilar stadium and overdue bills from contractors. The total comes to more than $142,000.
In addition, the club owes $628,000 in taxes to the internal revenue service and another $27,000 to the Social Security system.
Edwin Loyola, president of the Sports Federation of Azuay, is appealing to Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios to keep the club alive. “We are appealing to local leadership to assist us in supporting this valuable community asset in its time of need and we expect to be meeting with officials early this week,” he says.
On Sunday, the club, which sponsors a women’s and youth team as well as the men’s squad, sent out letters and emails to ticket holders asking for help. The letter said that although temporary agreements with some vendors and service providers have been reached, the team’s players say they will not play without pay.
Espinoza says that he and other former club presidents are convening what he calls a “group of 300” to save the team. “We will meet in the coming days in hopes of reaching agreements with those we are in debt to,” he said, adding that other team supporters are launching direct appeals to fans, including a radio marathon to raise money.
Most of the financial difficulty Deportivo Cuenca has faced in recent years stems from low attendance at games, officials say. “When we can’t compete effectively with the teams at the top of the Championship League, we cannot attract the crowds we need to pay our bills,” says fan club president Juan Segarra.
“To return to the top of the chart, however, we must overcome the current crisis,” he says.