In 2011, the Vitoria authorities encouraged the family Kerejeta to rescue Deportivo Alavés. Josean Kerejeta promoted a successful sports holding and it became almost an obligation to save an entity with 21 million debt and on the brink of disappearance. On Saturday, Deportivo Alavés celebrates 100 years with its economy completely healthy and playing its fifth consecutive season in LaLiga (in 100 years it has competed in First Division in 15 seasons). We chat with Haritz Kerejeta in the Buesa Arena, where they maintain the company's offices. A simple office, with an oval table to gather the team. Trophies and T-shirts, photos of his four daughters and a thick cover book: the history of the club.
Haritz Kerejeta He speaks slowly, selecting the words. Graduated in Business Administration from Syracuse University (New York), with an MBA from the Eseune Basque Business School, he transmits credibility and honesty, two of the pillars on which the company bases its growth. Sober and elegant, like the cherry tree that encloses (in Basque) the family name.
How does Haritz Kerejeta envision the Centennial of Deportivo Alavés?
As an occasion for us all to feel proud of the club, to continue cultivating the feeling of belonging to a historic club such as the Glorious one. We are proud of our club.
When they took over the management of the club, Deportivo Alavés had a debt of 21 million euros …
There were not even balls in the club … but we started to manage the club first with the professional management of our basketball team, Baskonia, and thus start generating our own resources to be able to create our own executive team and reduce debt. We represented an atypical case, the basketball team that acquires a soccer team, but now Deportivo Alavés has become a staple in our group. In both cases we apply the same model, letting sports decisions be made by specialists in the field. Baskonia is one of the greats of the ACB and also a benchmark in Europe. In basketball surprises are rarer, in soccer a small team can defeat a big one without problems …
In which box do you suffer the most?
Undoubtedly in Deportivo Alavés … in basketball you have more control of what happens, in football anything can happen (smiles)
They revolutionized the youth squad model with Baskonia by signing young talents from other countries, a model difficult to reproduce in football …
In basketball we were the first to go to Argentina to look for players, and we brought Luis Scola, Andrés Nocioni or Pablo Prigioni. We were the first to take risks (with the Bossman Law) with the Lithuanian players, because when you have less money than the others you have to be more imaginative. At first we had the players with families, later in our residence. We knew that we had to move faster in the market and think differently from the big clubs in order to be competitive. In football, Fifa is more restrictive with the signings of young soccer players.
Is that why you decided to acquire a team in Croatia?
Yes. We knew that Croatia is a quarry of great footballers who revalue their price quickly. Croatian players went through other leagues, such as Italy, before arriving in Spain with very high chips and high transfers. In Croatia they offer you players even waiters … In the local market there are rivals such as Athletic Club, Real Sociedad, CA Osasuna or SD Eibar, with whom we have to compete in a
a very small market where there is great inflation, because a player comes out with all the Basque clubs behind. So we explored having our own academy in Croatia with a club like NK Istra 1961.
Last season they were the first to return to subscribers the amount of the card due to the covid pandemic, an action that gave them credibility to face the member renewal campaign
The covid will suppose in global in our group around 12 million losses but we will save the situation. We are saddened that the day of Deportivo Alavés's Centenary cannot be attended by the public or that the Baskonia fans, who are very enthusiastic, cannot attend the games … But these are circumstances that we have had to face. Now we have to think about the future and think about improving Mendizorroza, making it more comfortable for the fans, with good boxes to generate business. We are clear that the Centennial of Deportivo Alavés we are going to live not only on Saturday, all year long and perhaps more.
The 40,000 square meters of sports facilities, including ice rink, at the Bakh have impressed me …
The project is to expand 30,000 square meters and build the European University Gasteiz (Euniez), the University promoted by the Baskonia-Alavés group, to continue working for our community. We are going to continue advising clubs like the Japanese Kagoshima and although they have offered us to acquire a club from the Premier and another from the French league, we will go calmly. Let's go easy