Past catches up with Sevilla President Del Nido

Outside Spain, the billionaire’s paradise of Marbella is known as a sizzling, sunny spot to park a North Sea ferry-sized yacht and put one’s Russian or Middle Eastern feet up for a while.

Within the country, though, Marbella has a well-earned reputation for being a sinkhole of festering, filthy corruption for the past couple of decades. 

The town and surrounding area was the power base for the horrendously dodgy former Atlético Madrid president and Marbella local mayor, Jesús Gil, who died in May 2004 after a spectacular existence of boorish behaviour, corruption accusations, fraud, prison sentences and tons and tons of pie. 

The legacy of Gil continued in Marbella with his former lieutenant, Julian Muñoz, taking over the role as Mayor and also ending up in the slammer for fraud - something that has made him a bit of a folk hero with Spain’s Telecinco channel which has followed his life and loves over the past decade with great interest.

The connection between these two figures - aside from both being despicable people - is that their lawyer was Sevilla president, José María del Nido, who was also up to his armpits in illegal activity in Marbella, declared a court on Monday in the long running corruption ‘Caso Minutas’ trial, which examined Del Nido’s role as a legal advisor to the city council.

“Del Nido was a willing accomplice criminally responsible for offenses of continuous fraudulent activities in tenders, corrupt practices and embezzlement of public funds,” the court ruling said in sentencing the Sevilla president to prison for seven-and-a-half years.

NEWS Sevilla chief Del Nido sentenced over fraud

The 54-year-old who has been president of Sevilla since 2002 will not be straight to jail though as there is still an appeal process to go through which could take quite some time, years even. However, it has started a debate on whether a convicted criminal should be in charge of a Primera football club (as opposed to a whole host of not convicted but probably should be ones, perhaps). 

Although Del Nido is set to give a press conference on Tuesday evening to discuss his present and future, a leading shareholder, Rafael Carrión, has called for the president to step down. “If I were him, I’d resign, as Sevilla cannot have a criminally convicted president. It damages the entity.” 

Del Nido, though, is popular with fans for having saved the club from near oblivion in the first part of the last decade and having led them to incredible success in Spain and Europe, a run of trophies that included two UEFA cup wins. However, message boards in Spain do also reflect that a number would be somewhat uncomfortable about having a crook as a leader.

The support from the club itself since Monday’s sentence was past has been firm with sporting director, Monchi, wanting to “give out a message of confidence, affection and calm.”  Sevilla coach, Marcelino, also offered his “total and sincere support," adding, "my hope is that he stays on as Sevilla president for many more years to come.” 

As well as Del Nido’s immediate future and that of the club being somewhat uncertain at the moment, it will be interesting to see what happens to the vigorous campaign lead by the Sevilla president on seeking a fairer distribution of TV rights between the 20 Primera clubs.

After all, what right does anyone have to talk of what’s fair or not when they have spent many years ripping off Marbella tax-payers to the sum of €2.8 million.

It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Del Nido stayed on at his post whilst the legal process continued. The tolerance for corruption in Spain is fairly high, mainly because it is unfortunately so prevalent in Spain, especially in local councils.

What’s more, Del Nido’s dubious past connections have hardly been a secret, although something conveniently ignored by the media. Until Monday that is when the Sevilla president’s past finally came back to haunt him.