President Guillen’s small changes symbolic of a larger cultural shift at Real Betis

Newly-promoted Real Betis are continuing to change under their latest Presidential and club-management approach, with a code of ethics now brought into place.

Otherwise small news, it serves as the latest symbolic action by the club looking to reinvent itself in 2011/12. Where previously fines for indiscipline were put towards such things as paying for a meal for those that ran the club, the latest regime, led by President Miguel Guillen is instilling a regulatory internal system that will determine more appropriate use of money raised through fines.

Acts such as players turning up late for training, publicly criticising the club and insubordination are among those that will be covered by this new system, as are finer definitions of expectations placed on each role at the club, including those of Guillen and Coach Pepe Mel, the two who are introducing this policy.

Whilst a seemingly insignificant and otherwise already widely-implemented policy across other teams in La Liga, its late but publicised introduction at the Benito Villamarin is not only representative of the wide-ranging changes the Andalusian club is having to undertake, but reflective of the chaos that has otherwise distracted it. This chaos includes the club’s entrance into – and continued uncertain survival of – administration, and the fact Guillen is the Verdiblancos’ third President inside 12 months.

This time last year saw the much-criticised Manuel Ruiz de Lopera lose control of the club when his assets that included a 51% majority controlling share, were frozen by a court judge. This was in light of investigations into fraudulent activities of Ruiz de Lopera’s other businesses, and also into allegations of embezzlement and corporate crime at Real Betis between 1993 and 1998.

Ruiz de Lopera attempted to sell his stake in the club to Luis Oliver Albesa, himself thought responsible for placing previous clubs Xerez and Cartagena into financial struggles. The sale to the Bitton Sport company Oliver was heading fell through, but the Spanish entrepreneur still secured shares from a third party to then take a position on the board.

However, it was former Betis and Real Madrid player Rafael Gordillo who was subsequently voted in by the board in December as President, ending Jose Leon Gomez’ four-year term, with Seville-born businessman Guillen initially taking a place on the newly-formed board.

The club then entered administration midway through a 2010/11 campaign that saw them comfortably win the Segunda Division return to La Liga at the second time of asking, and with a record number of goals scored. However, with debts of €84m though, the club has since been warned by the independent team of assessors currently overseeing it that should Betis fail to pay its creditors – that include players owed €30m in wages – then its faces dissolution.

Where Gordillo was seen as a symbolic appointment, his inexperience in managing the infrastructure of the club in light of such financial struggles prompted the board in June to elect their third President of the year, handing Guillen the role. Just as importantly was the announcement of an auditor – Joaquin Alberto Arbona Prini – appointed by the board for the next three years to ensure that the club improves its professionalism, relations with business partners and shareholders, and a better handling of season-ticket holders.

Alongside implementing policies such as this new internal ethics system, Guillen is working closely with current majority share holder Jose Antonio Bosch, and director of sport Vlada Stosic to re-enforce the squad on the pitch, whilst also bringing under control annual expenditure of €26m that sits in sharp contrast to generated revenue of €17m. The response from the fans has so far been positive, with the club having sold 25,000 season tickets for 2011/12 already, with 20% of those according to Guillen, new fans.

A late-arriving code of ethics and a new generation of supporters may seem insignificant against the short-term financial issues looming in Andalusia, but it signals Betis’ intent to build for a better future.

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