Summary of the 108 years of Real Betis Balompié

In 1907 a group of medical students preparing for a military career at a Polytechnic School located in Calle Cervantes set up a football club called “Sevilla Balompié”. The group was comprised of many brothers: the Hermosa brothers, the Wesolowski brothers, the Castillo brothers, the Cascales brothers and the Gutiérez brothers. The first kit of the team was white and blue. The first chairman was Alfonso de Castillo Ochoa and the first captain, who also trained the team, was Manuel Ramos Asencio, in 1914. The club offices were located in Calle Alfonso XIII (1907-1909), in Federico de Castro (1910-1911) and in Jerónimo Hernández (1912-1914).

The name chosen by the youngsters, in an attempt to avoid the use of the anglicism “football”, became intrinsically linked with the identity of the club: “Sevilla BALOMPIÉ” (during the initial months it was “España Balompié” wearing blue shirts and white shorts). The club was registered at the Government Offices on 1st February 1909.

Soon, “Balompié” team became known after winning the first Seville Cup in 1910; they went on to reclaim the trophy in 1911, 1912 and 1915. They took part in the first Andalusia Cup at the beginning of 1910 and were invited to participate in the Spanish Cup, but declined for economic reasons.

According to oral history, 1909 saw the founding of Betis Foot-ball Club as a break away from Sevilla Foot-ball Club. Eladio García de la Borbolla, until then a member of the board of directors of Sevilla Foot-ball Club, decided to leave and set up his own team. We should be cautious of the veracity of this information as the first recorded match played by that Betis team happened in 1910. Back then, a newspaper commented on the “inexperience of the recently created team”. In this way, Betis Foot-ball Club appeared on the scene with registered offices in Calle Mariscal (1909-1911) and in Federico de Castro (1912-1914).

In 1914, Balompié won the Seville Cup again and negotiations had initiated for a merger with Betis Foot-ball Club. Betis had been dissolved in 1913 only to be reformed the following year as a result of collaboration between José Gutiérrez, Eladio García de la Borbolla and Miguel Folgado, amongst others. The crucial intervention of the Marquis of Mochales obtained the royal distinction “Real” from Alfonso XIII.

On the 6th of December 1914 the board of directors of Sevilla Balompié approved the merger between the two clubs, Betis Foot-ball Club reciprocated two days later. The merger received vital support from Herbert Richard “Papá” Jones. In August 1915, Severo Núñez, the Governor of Seville, approved the statutes and the new name of the resulting entity determining that “Sevilla” Balompié was to assume the denomination “Real Betis” Balompié (entry No. 283, page 36 of the Governmental Civil Register). "Sevilla" Balompié provided the merger with players, trophies, and the playing field; which had been the “Campo de las Tablas Verdes” (the “Ground with the Green Boards”) since 1913 in Prado de San Sebastian. On the other hand, Betis F.C. provided the distinction “Real”. The club continued to be known as “the Balompié” and their supporters were called “Balompedistas” right up until the 30s. From this time on the club was referred to as “Betis” and the supporters “Béticos” and continue to be so to this day.

After winning the Seville Championship in 1915 Balompié initiated a decade of slow decline and came very close to disappearing from the football scene, lacking the financial wherewithal or the right to retain players in an era of “brown amateurism” or undercover professionals. Furthermore, the majority of the founding players were getting older and, in a short period of time, ten of their best players were “enticed away”. Nevertheless, they nearly won the Andalusian Championship on three occasions, becoming the only serious rivals for Sevilla F.C., which now getting stronger with players that had abandoned Balompié. In 1918 the Betis fans opened the new Patronato Ground. Their peacock blue and white kit remained in use until about 1920 when, according to the information available, they were substituted by the green and white stripes.

In 1924 Balompié made a comeback with the return of a number of the original founders to the board of directors (Castillo, Wesolowski, Hermosa, Fernández, Zúñiga, Cascales,...). They won the Spencer Cup in 1926 and, after numerous runner-up positions, they took the Andalusian Cup in 1928. When the National League was created Real Betis Balompié had achieved sporting, social and institutional consolidation and made its debut in the second division on 17th February 1928 with their eyes set on promotion to the first division.

1930-1947: The Golden Age and Collapse 

By the early 30s the terms “Betis” and “Béticos” had replaced “Balompié” and “Balompedistas” in everyday conversations. And that Betis, Betis Balompié, wrote some of their most brilliant episodes ever in the first five years of the decade. In less than ten months Betis became the first southern club to get to the final of the Spanish Cup, and by way of a silver jubilee celebration they were proclaimed second division champions on 3rdApril 1932. Betis Balompié (without the “Real” during the Second Spanish Republic) was the first Andalusian club to promote to the first division.

Once in the first division, Betis became a nursery for talent, and in the 1934-1935 season, under the management of Patrick O’Connell, the squad became First Division Champions. Urquiaga, Areso, Aedo, Peral, Gómez, Larrinoa, Adolfo, Lecue, Unamuno, Timimi, Saro, Caballero, Rancel, Valera and Espinosa (6 Basques, 3 Canarians, 3 Sevillians and a player from Almeria). On the 28th of April 1935 an illustrious page was written in the history of Betis: Betis won 0-5 at Santander earning the League title and, coinciding with a Saturday at the Seville Fair, celebrations took place at the fair ground where the news was written up on blackboards in the stands.

A year later, and true to the idiosyncrasy of the club, Betis plummeted from the peak to the abyss with the dismantling of the team of champions. This decline was caused in the first instance by the poor economic situation following the departure of the President Antonio Moreno Sevillano, forcing the club to sell three players. Furthermore, 4 players were given the freedom to leave principally responding to natural turnover of players. The most devastating blow was the break out of the Spanish Civil War which left the club without players. Some were stranded north of the front and others conscripted to fight. Only Peral, Valera and Saro remained of those who had triumphantly lifted the Championship Cup in the final just fifteen months earlier. The manager, O’Connell, left for FC Barcelona for the 1935-1936 season.

The Civil War had devastating consequences for Betis, and the Club mistakenly returned to the competition in the 1939-1940 season. They could have requested moratorium as did other clubs whose stadiums had been requisitioned for the purposes of the “war effort”. Consequently, on the 28th of April 1940, on the fifth anniversary of their league title, the Green-and-Whites were relegated to the second division.

Two years later they were again promoted to the First Division only to be relegated once again in 1943. The Club did not return for the next fifteen years. Their downhill run reached its lowest point in the most unfortunate event possible, and in the same stadium that saw Betis proclaimed League Champions. On 13th April 1947 Real Betis Balompié lost 4-1 against Racing and got relegated to the Third Division.

1947-1958: The "manquepierda" years (even when losing)

It would be hard to understand what Betis is without mentioning the seven years they played in the Third Division, because it was during that time when the club and its fans discovered the motto that accompanies them to this day. For many authors the “soul” of the expression is what kindled affection amongst all Spaniards in the 50s “¡Viva er Beti manqué pierda!” (Hurrah for Betis, even when losing!). The poet Joaquin Romero Murube describes those times, and that expression, as follows: “Betis achieved an unsinkable morale, unscathed by defeat. But instead of assuming that inexplicable resignation in response to so much adversity – unfortunately for us - we shrugged our shoulders instead of feeling elation in our hearts. After this catastrophe, Betis charged onward every match-day afternoon with ever greater enthusiasm searching to conquer glory”.

Those were the years of tortilla sandwiches, raffles and a completely flooded stadium when the river Tamarguillo broke its banks. Those were the years of Pascual Aparicio, Juan Petralanda, Manuel Ruiz Rodríguez, Alfonso Jaramillo, José María de la Concha, Manuel Simó and many others.

Betis overcame those years with the support of the fans, who carried the club back into the Second Division in 1954, earning the reputation for filling the stadium and organising “green marches” when playing away. The years of economic adversity were behind them during which only a few had kept the club alive. Their experience in the Third Division strengthened the team extraordinarily in sociological terms; what is more, adding another singularity to their history, that of being the only team to hold titles of the First, Second and Third Division.

Following their promotion to the Second Division, few doubted their return to the First Division sooner or later. Still four years went by, then, on 1st June 1958 Real Betis Balompié was once again a First Division team.

1958-1976: Lights and Shadows

15 years went by and Betis returned to the First Division; and they did so in style, winning their first official match 2-4 at their eternal rivals new stadium. After 15 desperate years teetering on the brink of disappearance, the significance of that victory in a city that is split in two colours made it a legendary derby.

The perios between 1959 and 1964 was a bonanza time for the club; improvements were made to the stadium, electric floodlights were installed and the stadium became property of the club. These years witnessed a modernisation of the management of the club and lifted Betis on to a higher level previously unknown in Betis’ history. Even Luis del Sol’s departure from the club was made up for by the arrival of Rogelio Sosa, two contemporary Green-and-White legends who were joined by Rafael Gordillo towards the end of the 70s.

In sporting terms, they were also years to remember. The club stayed in the First Division achieving third place in the table in 1964, obtaining the Carranza Trophy and Betis’ first participation in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. Just two years later, and ever faithful to their motto, the club saw the departure of Benito Villamarín after 10 years of leadership as chairman, the tragic death of André Aranda, and relegation to the Second Division. The first “Euro Betis” was followed by “Curro Betis” that, like the bullfighter Curro Romero, were able to put on legendary performances in the ring followed by unexpected disasters; consecutive promotions and relegations made Betis the classic “elevator team”: returning to the First Division in 1967, relegation in 1968, promotion in 1971, relegation in 1973, promotion in 1974...

In spite of all these events, many Betis fans hold memories for those years: the arrival of José Nuñez to the presidency, completion of the covered members stand and the incorporation of men like Biosca, Esnaola and Cardeñosa.

1977-1992: Copa del Rey and the 80s

On 25th June 1977 Betis raised the Copa del Rey at Vicente Calderon Stadium. Lead by Rafael Iriondo, Esnaola, Bizcocho, Biosca, Sabaté, Cobo, López, Alabanda, Cardeñosa, García Soriano, Megido, Benítez, Eulate y Del Pozo, another well remembered chapter was written in the history of Betis after a 22 penalty shootout. Betis was the last league champion prior to the Civil War (1935) and became the first Spanish Champion under the new denomination, Copa del Rey (1977). In this way, they closed the parenthesis around a period known as the worst years. That same year Betis reached the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup winners Cup having eliminated Milan; and true to their defining legend were relegated to the Second Division in the same season.

On their return to the First Division in 1979 they were accompanied by sporting achievements and became, again, “Euro Betis”. Qualification for the UEFA Cup in 1982 and 1984, the celebration of their platinum jubilee in 1982 and being runners-up to the league title in 1986 meant a few happy years for the Green-and-White supporters. These memories were made even sweeter by other events such as their stadium being a World Cup venue and more specifically the scene of the famous Spain’s victory over Malta (12-1).

Since then until 1992, Betis suffered both economic and sporting crises, again the club became an “elevator team” culminating in relegation in 1991. Clearly this was the worst moment to make the conversion to a Public Limited Sports Company. Now a Second Division club (and destined to remain there after losing the promotional eliminatory match against Deportivo) the Financial Recovery Plan forced Real Betis Balompié to raise share capital of just under 1,200 million Pesetas – twice that required of almost all other First and Second Division clubs.

In just over three months, the Betis fans made small investments around 400 million Pesetas, which would have covered some 60% to 100% of the share capital demanded of any other First and Second Division clubs. However, in this case it was not enough. In addition to these 400 million Pesetas, a further 100 million was raised through larger investment packages each in excess of 1% of the required share capital but still lacking 680 million and no interest from corporate investors or institutions on the horizon. On 30th June 1992 the Vice President for Finance Manuel Ruiz de Lopera obtained control of the majority of the stock of the Public Limited Sports Company.

1992-present: Real Betis Balompié, Public Limited Sports Company

Following reconversion into a Public Limited Sports Company, Betis did not return to the First Division until Lorenzo Serra’s arrival as manager late in the 1993-94 season. The promotion obtained in Burgos in 1994 put an end to the Second Division years. The presence of the Balearic manager on the bench and blossoming television revenues gave Betis three years to remember. In the first season after promotion Betis became the divisions revelation team finishing third in the league table. They also finished in the top four in the 1996-97 season and reached the final of the King’s Cup losing to FC Barcelona in extra time. The players in that match were Jaro, Jaime, Vidakovic, Ríos, Merino (Ureña, 64) Alexis, Nadj (Olías), Finidi, Cañas (Pier, 71) Jarni, Alfonso. Finidi and Alfonso scored in the match.

Betis suffered a period of instability after Serra’s departure, leading to relegation in 2000. They regained promotion the following season as runners-up of the Second Division and qualified for the UEFA Cup with Juande Ramos on the bench during the 2001-02 season. However, a lack of continuity brought with it two mediocre years until Serra’s return. During his second stint on the bench, 2005 became Betis’ year. The Green-and-Whites finished fourth in the league and won the 2004-05 King’s Cup, again at Vicente Calderon Stadium, beating CA Osasuna 2-1 (goals by Oliveira and Dani), with the following line-up:  Doblas, Melli, Rivas (Lembo, 78), Juanito, Luis Fernández, Arzu (Varela, 67), Marcos Assunçao, Joaquín, Fernando, Edu (Dani, 89) and Oliveira.

Two months later Betis became the first Andalusian club to qualify for the European Cup in the new Champions League format, eliminating AS Monaco who was runner-up in the 2004 edition. Betis contested the Group Stage against the defending champion Liverpool FC, the English Premier League champion Chelsea FC and Anderlecht from Belgium.

Returning down well-trodden paths present throughout the existence Real Betis, a season of euphoria was followed by catastrophe. The team narrowly avoided relegation in the 2006-06 season and Serra’s contract was not renewed. The summer of 2006 saw the dawning of a recession unknown since the 1980s and institutional, social and sporting deterioration set in, which coincides with Manuel Ruiz de Lopera being charged for involvement in corporate crime.

After three years barely maintaining their position in the First Division Betis is finally relegated to the Second Division on the 31st of May 2009. Fifteen days later, 65,000 Betis fans demonstrated demanding changes on the board and the resignation of the principal shareholder. That day will become known as 15-J (15th of July) a decisive demonstration marking club history. In parallel to these events, legal investigations continued into the lawsuit presented against Manuel Ruiz de Lopera by three associations (Liga de Juristas Béticos, Por Nuestro Betis and Béticos por el Villamarín) for corporate crime. Judge Mercedes Alaya headed up the investigation.

Betis just missed out promotion in the last match of the 2009-10 season and had to remain in the Second Division. Ruiz de Lopera tried to sell his share in the company to an investment group led by Luis Oliver but the investigating judge blocked the operation subsequently delegating the voting rights to a judicial panel.

The league was already underway and the club found itself in a very complicated economic situation. Rafael Gordillo (new Chairman) and José Antonio Bosch (Vice Chairman substituting the deceased Juan Manuel Gómez Porrúa) and Luis Ruiz de Huidobro took over safeguarding the Farusa stock (belonging to Lopera).

After six months on the board, the team was promoted to the First Division and Rafael Gordillo stepped down from the chairmanship. He handed over the reins to Miguel Guillén Vallejo who was ratified at the general shareholders meeting held in June, along Pablo Gómez as Vice Chairman. During the first season Real Betis Balompié settled down well in the Liga BBVA (denomination for the First Division then); followed by a season in which the team qualified for the UEFA Europa League. The last three years of Green-and-White success cannot be understood without participation of the manager Pepe Mel, able to get spectacular results counting on a large number of players from the second team.

The sporting success achieved in this latest stage of development has been characterised by professionalisation and Real Betis Balompié moving on in all social, economic, and footballing areas. The objective is to adapt a historic football club to the 21st century with only one goal, ensure that Real Betis Balompié in all its facets is on the same level as its unrivalled fan base.