Basement Rayo look set to pay a heavy price for their miserable form and myriad of off-field problems, writes Martin Whiteley.
With only one win and five points to their name this season, Rayo Vallecano find themselves rooted to the bottom of the Primera Division — but it’s the off-field grievances aired by their players against the club that have been the real talking point.
There had been hope that 2022 could represent a fresh start for Rayo but their desperate losing run has continued as they started the new year with a 1-0 loss at home to Eibar before last Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat at Sevilla made it five losses on the bounce. Their miserable week was completed when their home match against Real Madrid was postponed on the day of the game after Covid cases were detected in the camp.
Rayo, who were formed in 2000 after taking over local club CD El Buen Retiro, won the last of their three Spanish league titles in 2011. Even though they are nowhere near the lofty heights of their glory years, unlike the men’s side, they have always managed to maintain a place at the top table since their promotion in 2003 but now that’s under threat.
Their troubles run much deeper than miserable form. As far back as December 2020, there had been complaints that the standards, treatment and facilities were not on the same level as their male counterparts.
A photo of sandwiches, containing no butter and four slices of ham given as a post-match meal, were circulated on Twitter and there was also mention of irregular payment dates for wages. To their credit, even male players said the club needs to do better.
Despite these distractions, the team still ended the 2020-21 season in 13th place and five points clear of the final relegation spot. This season the discontent has grown.
In October, Madrid’s Department for Work and Social Security accepted a complaint filed by the female players of Rayo Vallecano through the Spanish Players’ Union (AFE) in relation to them not being registered for social security at the start of the season.
The following month, the AFE supported player Camila Saez after she had suffered a head injury in Rayo’s home game against Athletic Bilbao. Multiple media outlets reported the Chilean had to be treated by the visitor’s doctor because the home side did not have one of their own present at the match.
Twelve days after the incident, Rayo issued a statement saying that those reports were false and as the injury happened in front of the Athletic bench their medical staff were first to react. Saez was then treated and monitored by their own medical representative before eventually being transferred by ambulance to a hospital for further attention, the Madrid-based club continued.
Even though it is not mandatory in the RFEF General Regulations that covers women’s top-flight games for clubs to have a doctor as part of their staff, they say they did provide one for their female team’s contests. In addition, they also arranged for an ambulance and two rooms where players from both teams could be treated.
Due to the ‘inaccurate’ reporting of the incident, Rayo added that the doctor in question did not want to cover any more of the women’s games.Embed from Getty Images
Further pictures of a member of the Barcelona medical staff treating a Rayo player when they played at the Catalan side in their final game of 2021 have also caused concern, along with a lack of gym facilities and problems relating to their accommodation. It led the Rayo players to stage a 30-second protest at the lack of basic essentials provided to them by their club at the start of their game away to Real Madrid in November.
Club president Raul Martin Presa accepts that Rayo has things to improve in their women’s team but believes the criticism of him is largely down to the animosity between him and the AFE president David Aganzo.
Relegation might make him think differently. It can often be the point where a club gets to reset its objectives, but the fact that the players were angered to such a degree could still count against Rayo for some time to come.
Even if the club’s hierarchy does decide to invest more in the side, any new personnel may well have serious reservations about joining them after their shortcomings have been so well documented.
Follow Martin on Twitter @673martin