Fernando Lamikiz has, as expected, stepped down as President of Athletic Bilbao following the team’s poor start to the season.
It had been hoped that a summer of upheaval and managerial changes might bring about a change in fortunes for the team following a dreadful season that saw the team battle relegation throughout the campaign.
However, with just two points form their opening four games and with no visible signs of improvement in terms of performance, the fans ad turned on the club President and home matches at the San Mames have been marred by growing division and hostility. The breaking point came after noisy demonstrations by the fans, against the President and his board, following the 1-4 home defeat to Atletico Madrid. Lamikiz has therefore decided that enough is enough.
Last nigh the former President told the club’s assembly that “We have decided that I should resign and that the rest of the board should continue with their work for the good of Athletic Bilbao football club"
And, perhaps a little bitterly, added "It appears that I might be the cause of the unrest and therefore I've decided to go."
Lamikiz is to be replaced by his Vice –President Ana Ukijo who becomes Athletic’s first female President in its 108 year history and the only female President currently responsible for a Primera Liga club.
Ukijo, a lawyer, born in Bilbao, has been something of a pioneer at Athletic after also having been the very first woman on the board of the club in 1990, just a decade after women were first permitted to join the club as Socios, a privilege reserved exclusively for men until the 1980’s.
The new President is certainly going to have her work cut out over the coming season and if results continue to go against them, she will have some very difficult decisions to take. One of them must surely be over the future of current first team manager, Felix Sarriugarte.
The former reserve team coach took control in the summer replacing Javier Clemente who was credited with saving the club from it’s first ever relegation from the top flight after taking control midway through the season. However, Clemente was sacked after falling out with Fernando Lamikiz following an outburst over the clubs activities in the transfer market.
Unfortunately, results have worsened under Sarriugarte and the team look a shambles on the pitch, lacking any of the spirit or determination that one would normally associate with this fiercely proud Basque club. With all the off field drama and four different managers at the helm in just over a year, the club needs stability and all eyes will be on how patient the new President is prepared to be as she tries to steady the ship.
One thing is for sure, Ana Ukijo will not tolerate any further abuse from the supporters directed at the board, and said “ You have every right to criticise us and inform us when you disagree with a decision, but you are not going to get away with insulting us. No way.”