Lorca – Estadio Francisco Artés Carrasco
Sometimes, you have to wonder whether it is worth it? All that effort, money and stress and what do you have to show for it? However, before you get too depressed about the club you follow, spare a thought for the good people of Lorca, tucked away in the south east corner of Spain. Over the past 110 years, they have had to endure the formation and closure of 9 senior teams and have followed the different incarnations at five separate stadiums. I’ve a feeling that this is going to be a long article so fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
The Lorquinos have a Geordie to thank for bringing football to their city. Manuel José Pelegrín y Dunn was born in Newcastle in 1857, before moving to his father’s native Lorca in the 1890’s. Still clinging to his roots, Manny Pelegrín set up Sociedad Lorca Foot-ball Club in 1901, adopting the black & white stripes of his beloved Magpies. Early matches were played in the square next to the Plaza de Toros, before moving to the Campo de los Llano de Santa Quiteria in 1904. Here the club remained until 20 January 1924. Later that year, on 12 October, Lorca FC inaugurated the Campo de la Rueda with a 2-0 win in a league match against FC Cartagena. The club won the second division of the Campeonato Regional de Murciana in 1925 and progressed to the top division where they came upon the regional big-wigs such as Real Murcia & Cartagena FC. Lorca FC took some heavy beatings during their time at this level and with interest in the club on the wane, it folded in June 1928
Almost immediately, a new club was formed. Lorca Sport Club took up residence at Campo de la Rueda and entered the Campeonato de Primera, but finished last in the league. The following 1929-30 season saw the club compete in the first ever Tercera competition and finish a creditable third ahead of Albacete, Hercules and Imperia Murcia. However, all was not right and with finances tight, the club withdrew from the 1931 Copa del Rey, rather than face the long journey to Oviedo. In the summer of 1932, Lorca Sport Club decided to withdraw from all competitions and folded. Move on a year and another pretender appeared on the scene. Club Deportivo Lorca competed in the Campeonato Regional de Murciana in 1933 and thanks to some restructuring, made it to the Primera Categoría Regional championship for the last season before the Civil War. Unfortunately, it did not reappear after the hostilities had ended, and as the Campo de La Rueda took one hell of a pounding, the search was on for a new club and a new stadium.
It took until the summer of 1940 for the next senior team to emerge. Lorca Fútbol Club started out in category one of the regional league, but in season 43-44 appeared in Group VII of the Tercera. Maybe they shouldn’t have bothered as they won only one of their 18 matches and finished bottom of the league. They were still using the dilapidated Campo de la Rueda up until December 1943, but then moved to the Campo de Fútbol del Instituto Ibañez Martín, It was first used on 16 January 1944 in a goalless draw with Cartagena, but was barely an improvement on La Rueda. The club and the stadium saw out the remainder of their days in the regional leagues, as first Lorca Fútbol Club folded in 1950, and then its successor Club Deportivo Lorca, used the stadium until it closed on 30 September 1951. On 28 October 1951 CD Lorca opened the Campo Municipal de San José with a 6-1 friendly win over Pinosense. Hopes were high that Club Deportivo Lorca would be more successful than its predecessors, and initial signs were promising when the club debuted in the Tercera for the 1952-53 season. However, results were at best modest and the club never finished higher than third in the Tercera (61-62), before finishing bottom in season 65-66 and folding with accumulated debts of over 150,000 pesetas.
Maybe the folk of Lorca were a bit sceptical about the city’s footballing dreams, for they did without a senior team until 1969, when CF Lorca Deportivo was formed. Nothing in its first decade as a club suggested that this manifestation would be any different from the others that had gone before, as they hung around in the regional leagues. Home was the familiar & simple Campo de San José, although by the early 1970’s it did have a simple cover on the west side of the ground and a grass pitch, used for the first time on 8 September 1971 with a friendly against Real Madrid. The first signs that this club could be different from the rest came in 1979 when it won promotion to the Tercera. Two years later and the city’s first Tercera title and promotion to Segunda B was won and with momentum behind them, they didn’t stop there. Approaching the final day of the season, Lorca Deportiva needed to win at Algeciras to earn promotion to La Segunda. They could only draw and local rivals Cartagena FC sneaked through by the narrowest of margins.
Undeterred, the club regrouped and two seasons later won the Segunda B Group II title and with it promotion to the second division. Hob-nobbing with the likes of Cadiz, Real Oviedo, Las Palmas & Celta Vigo, Lorca Deportivo was always likely to struggle, and so it proved with their dream finishing after the one season. With budgets cut following relegation from La Segunda, Lorca Deportivo suffered a dismal 85-86 campaign in Segunda B and dropped to the Tercera. The writing was on the wall and despite a brief return to Segunda B in 1987, the club was back in the Tercera in 1989. Disenchanted with the running of the club, a group of fans set up Lorca Promesas in 1991, and by the 92-93 season, both were competing in the Tercera. The city’s fans had got behind Lorca Promesas, who were also playing at the Campo de San José, and over the next two seasons outperformed the supposedly senior team. The end came for Lorca Deportivo at the end of the 93-94 season, when relegation to the Regional Preferente saw the club wound up. Lorca Promesas and another local club, UD Lorca, joined forces during the close season and formed Lorca Club de Fútbol.
Lorca CF continued the city’s tradition of under-performing, debt-ridden clubs. Between its formation in 1994 and final breath in 2002, it won promotion to Segunda B on three occasions, only to be relegated after a season-long stay. In a farcical final season, the players and staff went unpaid for five months, but still managed to reach the play-offs. Eventually, with debts of 1.3 million euros, Lorca CF joined the increasingly crowded Lorquino league in the sky. I think you can guess what happened next. Yes, the formation of Lorca Deportiva CF in the summer of 2002 by Antonio Baños. A place in the Tercera was bought for the club and the team immediately obliged by winning the league title and promotion to Segunda B. In fairness, it has to be said that there was an incentive to start afresh after Lorca CF’s demise. In October 2001, the local municipality had started work on a new stadium some 5km to the south of the city. It was ready for use towards the end of the 2002-03 season and on 9 March 2003, Lorca Deportiva beat Caravaca 2-1 in the final match at the Campo San José.
Lorca Deportiva used the new stadium as a springboard, as following promotion to Segunda B, the club finished second, only losing out in the play-offs to Pontevedra CF. The following season saw former player Unai Emery installed as coach and a fourth place finish and the defeat of Real Union in the play-offs earned the club promotion to La Segunda. Determined not to go the way of its one predecessor that reached the second division, the club invested in new talent and stood mid-table at the halfway point. It then went on a run of results that saw it climb the league and with four matches to play, Lorca Deportiva occupied the last promotion place. However, with Levante UD gaining ground, president Baños accused them of bribing the opposition. This seemed to have a greater impact on his own club, and as Lorca stumbled, Levante snatched the final promotion spot. Emery left for Almeria in the summer of 2006, and the club went into a steep decline. Relegated to Segunda B in 2007, the clubs debts were spiralling out of control, and in a strikingly similar set of circumstances to Lorca CF, the club reached the 2008-09 play-offs despite not paying its players. The wages remained unpaid and the club was demoted to the Tercera. The club was finally wound up on 18 October 2010 with debts of €3.4m.
There followed another short-lived attempt at bringing footballing success to the city in the summer of 2010, when Lorca Atlético Club De Futbol was formed. Club president Cristóbal Sánchez Arcas had bought fellow Murcian’s Sangonera Atlético and moved them to the Estadio Francisco Artés Carrasco. The club endured a tight battle against relegation, earning a point in the final game of the season to ensure safety. That point came just four days after an earthquake shook the centre of Lorca. Alas, Lorca Atlético succumbed to relegation at the end of the 2011-12, losing out to CF Palencia in the Relegation Play-offs. The old problem of failing to pay the players reared its ugly head, and following a further administrative relegation in June 2012, Lorca Atlético joined the rather over-crowded Lorquino mini-league in the sky. The latest club to try it’s luck at the Estadio Francisco Artés Carrasco is La Hoya Lorca Club de Fútbol, who by recent standards have longevity and pedigree on their side, having been founded in 2003. They hail from La Hoya, a small town 6 miles north-east of Lorca and played at the Campo de Fútbol de Los Tollos until the demise of Lorca Atlético, when the club took on the jinxed mantle of Lorca’s senior team.
The stadium was unaffected by the earthquake and because it is municipally owned, it has stood serenely by as all hell has broken loose in the boardrooms of its resident clubs. Designed by Cristino Guerra and built by Construcciones Giner at a cost of 3.5 milllion euros, it is a shrink-wrapped version of the Estadio Colombino that opened a year earlier in Huelva. It’s 8100 blue and white seats are arranged over three open banks and a 3,200 seat main tribuna. Set well out of town with the mountains of the Cejo de los Enamorados as a backdrop, the Estadio Francisco Artés Carrasco has a pristine and calm feel about it, which is more than can be said for the history of football in Lorca.