Real Oviedo, a soccer team in the proud province of Asturias, is about 300 miles north of Madrid and about a million miles behind Real Madrid, the powerhouse that along with F.C. Barcelona defines Spanish soccer.
Once a top-tier club, Real Oviedo tumbled as low as the fourth division, undone by years of financial negligence and political strife. Team staff members worked in a stadium bathroom when the power was turned off in their offices. Players revolted after not being paid. The current owner, charged with tax evasion, is missing. The club’s tax bill of 1.9 million euros, or $2.4 million, is due at the end of the year. Bankruptcy beckoned.
So about two weeks ago, Real Oviedo sold shares in the team online for 10.75 euros, or about $14. The club may never rival Real Madrid or F.C. Barcelona, but the effort, which ends Saturday, might keep it alive.
Fueled by Twitter messages by a British sportswriter in Spain, fans from Britain, South America, China and elsewhere have snapped up thousands of shares. Real Oviedo alumni playing in the English Premier League bought some and urged fans to do the same. Real Madrid said it would buy 100,000 euros’ worth of shares. One fan near Portland, Ore., promised to get a Real Oviedo tattoo if others bought 100 shares. She got the tattoo.