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Investing in football: a Real Oviedo shareholder's tale

By Jonathan Hawkins, CNN
updated 6:59 AM EST, Wed November 21, 2012
Over the weekend third-tier Spanish club Real Oviedo were saved from extinction after receiving a huge injection of cash from the world's richest man Carlos Slim. Over the weekend third-tier Spanish club Real Oviedo were saved from extinction after receiving a huge injection of cash from the world's richest man Carlos Slim.
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Rising from the ashes
Hard times
Global concern
"Extraordinary" gesture.
Oviedo solidarity
Soccer synergy
Depth of feeling
Lowe down
Proud tradition
Premier support
Cazorla concern
Slim's sporting interests
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Why would a Nottingham Forest fan invest $52 in third-tier Spanish club Real Oviedo?
  • Jonathan Hawkins interest in Oviedo piqued by British journalist Sid Lowe
  • Hawkins bought four shares allowing him to attend Oviedo's annual general meeting
  • The third division club had had until November 17 to avoid extinction

(CNN) -- Last Wednesday, in a move that I still don't fully understand, I became a shareholder in the Spanish football club Real Oviedo.

In terms of my relationship with football, I should probably lay my cards on the table. I am a Nottingham Forest fan. Anyone of a certain age with a passing interest in the game will understand that I'm familiar with disappointment.

Having watched Forest fall from the heights of back-to-back European Cup wins to the depths of English football's third tier I know, all too well, the emotions involved in witnessing a distressing decline.

This doubtless explains why some sense of faded glamour or a struggle against adversity tends to attract me to a club. To illustrate this point, my favorite Italian team is Sampdoria, currently lying 14th in Serie A. Winning, as they say, isn't everything.

I realise this is perverse, but I've never been able to understand the appeal of supporting a football giant, going into a season in the confident expectation of wins and trophies.

Jerry Maguire

So a couple of weeks ago, when I first heard of the plight of Oviedo, something clicked.

The "Footbonaut" -- is a robotic cage which footballers can use to improve passing, spatial awareness and control. The machine is being used by German champions Borussia Dortmund. The "Footbonaut" -- is a robotic cage which footballers can use to improve passing, spatial awareness and control. The machine is being used by German champions Borussia Dortmund.
The final frontier?
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Dortmund\'s training pays dividends Dortmund's training pays dividends
Real Oviedo fans show their support for the club in the Estadio Carlos Tartiere with a banner reading "For the future of Real Oviedo" before a game with Real Madrid's reserve team on November 11, 2012. Real Oviedo fans show their support for the club in the Estadio Carlos Tartiere with a banner reading "For the future of Real Oviedo" before a game with Real Madrid's reserve team on November 11, 2012.
Real Oviedo: A Twitter sensation
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Real Oviedo\'s fight for survival Real Oviedo's fight for survival

I found myself Googling the club, reading about the city of Oviedo, admiring the jagged hills of Asturias.

My attention was piqued by Sid Lowe, the British journalist whose animated appreciation of Spanish football has brought La Liga to life for many outside Spain.

Read: Can Twitter help save Spanish soccer club Real Oviedo

Lowe ignited the international campaign to save the club, while also warning that investors were highly unlikely to see any return.

To paraphrase Jerry Maguire, he had me at 'unlikely'.

Here was a potentially lost cause that I was powerless to resist. I stepped up my research and prepared to delve into the insanity of football club ownership.

By the time I was ready to take the plunge, Real's global coalition of the willing had swelled considerably and the club was almost half way to safety.

The share offer's website looked reassuringly professional, and was helpfully available in English.

Estadio Carlos Tartiere

I had initially thought of just buying one share, but then I discovered that owning four shares would entitle me to attend the annual general meeting. Influence, I thought.

I imagined myself turning up at the airport, being feted as an arriving hero and bought drinks in Oviedo's tapas bars just for being me.

I rejected any thoughts that this scenario was somewhat far-fetched. I inputted my passport number, transferred the cash, sat back and enjoyed the warm glow of owning something of no apparent value whatsoever.

The weird thing is that it really was a glow.

I had another look at the impressive Estadio Carlos Tartiere and smiled to myself.

I wondered how much flights would cost, and how I would persuade my wife that a weekend in Asturias was a good idea. I started following Oviedo types on Twitter. I re-tweeted a link to the club's soon-to-be-opened online shop.

Mexican Tycoon

As the club's deadline day of November 17 approached, I kept an eye on the increasingly positive news coming from northern Spain; this people's club, now partly my club, looked close to completing its path to safety.

Then came the news of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim's intervention.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (left) and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (right) -- widely considered the two best players in the world -- shake hands before the 'El Classico' derby between Spain's two biggest clubs. But is the huge wealth of Barca and Real damaging the rest of Spanish football? Barcelona's Lionel Messi (left) and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (right) -- widely considered the two best players in the world -- shake hands before the 'El Classico' derby between Spain's two biggest clubs. But is the huge wealth of Barca and Real damaging the rest of Spanish football?
Spanish duopoly
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Spanish football hit by sponsorship cutbacks Spanish football hit by sponsorship cutbacks
Sergio "Checo" Perez has been the surprise package of the 2012 Formula One season -- just his second year in the elite division of motorsport. Sergio "Checo" Perez has been the surprise package of the 2012 Formula One season -- just his second year in the elite division of motorsport.
Mexican Wunderkind
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The rise and rise of Sergio Perez The rise and rise of Sergio Perez

As a push over the line goes it could hardly be more emphatic, and suddenly the need to gather more shareholders became irrelevant. Oviedo was in the clear; 13,000 shareholders and the world's richest man had made it happen.

However. I wasn't quite sure how I felt about this new development.

The idea that a multi-billionaire was now bankrolling the club was anathema to me; I still feel that the age of the oligarch has done little but damage to football, at least in England.

Read: World's richest man saves Spanish soccer club

But it also opened up a world of possibilities. Even Nottingham Forest have super-rich owners now, and at the City Ground the Al Hasawi family have appeared at pains to show the club's fans that they intend to do things "the right way". Maybe Carlos Slim would be the same.

So far my only proof of ownership is my receipt from Paypal, which almost a week on makes me slightly uneasy but I hope is just a sign of how unbelievably successful this escapade has been for the club.

I have a genuine feeling of being part of something, and a sense that this is the start of an exciting story. I also fully intend to make it to a game at the earliest available opportunity.

I suppose I should probably think about how I explain to my wife that I've spent a chunk of our weekly shopping money on a Spanish third division football team. She's a Napoli fan; surely she'll understand?

For now though I'm waiting patiently for my share certificate to arrive in the post.

Whatever happens at the very least I have to buy a Real Oviedo mug.

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