One Friday in November, 1977 ex-footballer Manolo Esteo had an unexpected encounter. He had once been goalkeeper for Atlético Madrid. It didn’t work out and at that time he was employed as an executive in the AIG group. At the end of the evening of that particular Friday, he ended up in a disco in Goya. There he bumped into a footballer who had been successful, namely Juan Gomez, known as Juanito, who played for Real Madrid.
Both chatted for a bit and Juanito expressed his concern for the footballers’ situation. “The retention-of-title right”, the lack of legal certainty, overdue salaries, and the Inland Revenue were among his grievances.. Suddenly Esteo had an idea – now that Franco was no longer alive, a union could be set up.
Juanito fell for Esteo’s idea and began to think seriously about it. Before long a meeting was held, the result of which was very positive. It was decided to establish a union using the statutes of the Argentinian Footballers’ Union, formed in 1944, as a base for the project.
On 23rd January 1978 the Spanish Football Union was formed.
This move divided the press and the society during the times of the surprisingly peaceful, political transition. The media termed it the “Millionaires’ Union” while the reactions of the extreme right papers was very aggressive.
Many club presidents jumped on the band waggon and viciously attacked the project. The debate was heated even more when one of the founder members, José Cabrera, ex-footballer and socialist militant, publicly announced that only three groups of workers did not have social security – domestic workers, prostitues and footballers.
The union, financed by its members, got off to a precarious start with a loan of one million pesetas. A year later, in March 1979, unhappy with the results of their negotiations, the AFE called for the first football strike. The media inevitably called it the “Millionaires’ Strike”.
There were to be three strikes more before the union would achieve its objectives. By the mid 80s, the situation changed and footballers enjoyed social security, guaranteed monthly salaries and the working relation with the clubs improved. The only objective they haven’t achieved to date is that Hacienda recognise their earnings as irregular, allowing footballers to spread out their short lived incomes until they reach retirement age.
Wouldn’t we all love Hacienda to have the same consideration with us? Wishful thinking footballers!