Murcia – La Condomina
There is some dispute over the formation date of Real Murcia Club de Fútbol. Some list it as 1906, others 1908, whilst the club states that its official birthday is 6 December 1919. What we do know is that like many other cities in Spain, football first appeared in Murcia at the turn of the twentieth century, courtesy of English ex-patriot students. By 1906, the city of Murcia had two main football clubs, Association Murcia Foot-ball Club and Murcia Foot-ball Club. Over the next decade and a half, these two and several other clubs tried and failed to make an impression beyond the regional boundaries, before the original Murcia FC called it a day in the summer of 1919. Within weeks, former players of Murcia FC, along with members from other clubs formed Levante Foot-ball Club and set up home at the former ground of Murcia FC, the Campo de la Torre de la Marquesa.
The ground was owned by a local nobleman, Diego Chico de Guzmán, the Conde de la Real Piedad, and was the site of an orchard before the club cleared the land. It was opened on 27 January 1918 with a match between Murcia FC and Hispana, but little over a year later, the ground stood empty after Murcia FC folded following financial difficulties. Levante moved in and found immediate success when winning the Levantine championship in 1920-21. Levante changed their name to name to Murcia FC in 1922 and switched from olive green shirts to the now familiar red. A year later, the club gained royal patronage from King Alfonso XIII, becoming Real Murcia Foot-ball Club. Don Guzmán had other plans for the land and served notice to the club in the spring of 1924. The land would become a prison and part of the Caravaca railway station. The last game took place on 7 December 1924 when Real Murcia beat Natación de Alicante 2-0. You can still see the old tower that was incorporated into the prison on the Camino del Portillo, just to the north of the city centre.
The forced move a was a blessing in disguise as the Campo de la Torre Marquesa offered little in the way of spectator facilities and had poor access. The club was already looking for new ground and in April 1924 found a plot of land behind the city’s bullring. Opened on 25 December 1924 with match against Martinenc of Barcelona, the ground was named La Condomina after a drain that ran along its east side into the Rio Segura. It was designed by engineer and former player Eduardo Menoyo and featured a narrow terrace and short stand on west side, with hard standing on 3 other sides. With a capacity of 4,000, the new stadium was the ideal base for a club that was about to to dominate the newly formed Murcian Federation. Those championship victories earned Real Murcia a place in the inaugural Segunda B in the 1928-29 season. Real Murcia finished runners-up and debuted in La Segunda in the 1929-30 season, finishing eighth. The club continued to make progress and reached play-offs for La Primera in 1934-35 and 35-36, but narrowly missed out. There would be no immediate chance to make it third time lucky, as on the 3 October 1936, the Spanish Football Federation suspended the league due to the worsening Civil War. Murcia was a Republican stronghold for much of the war and La Condomina is initially used as drill field for soldiers and volunteers, before being used to repair lorries and tanks. Finally, as the Nationalists closed in, the stadium was stripped of all valuable material.
After war, the stadium in no fit state to be used, so work commenced before and during the 1939-40 season on major redevelopment. New terraces went up behind each goal, the west side terrace was extended and a thin terrace was added to the east side. Whilst work was progressing off the pitch, Real Murcia was making good progress on it. On 5 May 1940, the club travelled to the Campo de Deportes Mirandilla to face Cadiz CF in a match that would see the winner promoted to La Primera. Real Murcia prevailed 0-2 and would debut in the top division in 1940-41. The first season at the top proved very difficult and after just five wins, the club finished bottom and was relegated. Three years later however, Real Murcia finished second in La Segunda, and with the play-offs scrapped, automatically ascended to the top flight. This time Real Murcia managed to stay in La Segunda for three seasons, before dropping back to La Segunda in 1947.
Despite a very healthy record in La Segunda, 9 titles and 11 promotions, Real Murcia has only managed to spend 18 seasons in the top tier. They have a best placed finish of eleventh and has never managing to stay in the top tier for more than three consecutive seasons. This is in stark contrast to their record in La Segunda, where they have played a record 51 seasons. It was during one of its longer stays in La Segunda that La Condomina underwent its next redevelopment. The east terrace was extended and floodlights were added in the summer of 1961. These were switched on for league match against Real Mallorca on 30 August 1961. At this point, La Condomina held around 25,000 and it was full on 21 April 1963 when the club won promotion back to the top division. A two year stay followed, but when they were relegated in 1965, it signalled the start of a decline which eventually resulted in relegation to the Tercera in 1970. Real Murcia is nothing if not resilient and after two seasons, won promotion back to La Segunda. The success did not stop there and a second successive promotion saw the club back in the first division, nine seasons after they last exited.
As if to emphasise the unpredictable nature of the club, Real Murcia managed to stay in La Primera for two seasons in the mid 1970’s before two successive relegations saw the club back in the Tercera, five short years after leaving it. Once again, Real Murcia didn’t hang around and were back in the second division for the start of the 1977-78 season. During the summer of 1978, work commenced on a new two tiered terrace on the west side, after faults were found with the structure of the 1940’s build. This was opened on 15 October 1978 and the upper tier would gain a roof for the start of the 1980-81 season, as Real Murcia returned to La Primera. The eighties was the clubs most “successful” decade with six seasons being spent with the elite. However, as sure as night follows day, a down-turn was just around the corner for Real Murcia. The 1990’s saw the club at its lowest ebb in terms of results, with relegation to Segunda B in 1992 and the Tercera in 1995, as well as a host of financial difficulties. This saw the club bailed out in September 1995, when the club’s debts were cleared with the sale of La Condomina to the Municipality for a sum that was equivalent to 40 million euros. The club fought back and whilst the ascent was not quite as meteoric as earlier, the club won promotion in 95-96 and 99-00 to earn a place in La Segunda. However, during the summer of 1999 a new pretender was born, when former Real Murcia player Enrique Pina formed Club de Fútbol Ciudad de Murcia. A team who within 5 years would challenge Real Murcia for the position of top dog in town.
The turn of the century saw an upturn in Real Murcia’s fortunes and after two steady, if unspectacular seasons, the club won its ninth La Segunda title and promotion back to La Primera after a 14 year absence. The minimum standard for stadiums had evolved dramatically since the mid 1980’s, and La Condomina now an all-seater stadium, had a capacity of just 17,000. Home matches had an average attendance of little over 11,000, only slightly better than their promotion season. This low figure was in part due to another woeful season in the top division. Real Murcia won just five matches and returned once again to La Segunda at the end of the season. Back in the second tier, Real Murcia had the nasty shock off having to play against and share La Condomina with Ciudad de Murcia, who had won promotion to La Segunda in their absence. At least they had the comfort of coming out on top in the La Derbis and in final league positon, finishing 12th to Ciudad’s 18th. A year later however, the positions were reversed, with Ciudad de Murcia just missing out on promotion and Real Murcia finishing 16th. Work had already begun on a new stadium a few miles to the north of the city and it was imperative that Real Murcia, with the traditionally larger fan base, got back to the first division.
Real Murcia started the 06-07 season at La Condomina, but played their last home match at the venue on 11 November 2006, losing to Polideportivo Ejido 0-1. Whilst Real Murcia headed to the new 31,179 capacity stadium to the north of the city, Ciudad de Murcia with their attendances of little over 3,000, continued on at La Condomina. They almost pulled off a Murcian promotion double, finishing fourth, one place behind their promoted city rivals. However, during the summer of 2007, the club was sold to Carlos Marsá Valdovinos, president of little known Granada 74, for 27 million Euros and moved lock, stock and barrel 160 miles west to Granada. You can read about this farcical situation and ultimate demise of Ciudad de Murcia/Granada 74 here. Football finally returned to La Condomina in September 2014, when UCAM Murcia CF moved from the suburb of Sangonera La Verde into the centre of town. Rather than open the whole of the stadium, UCAM’s supporters are confined to the lower tier of the main stand. With UCAM Murcia CF winning promotion to La Segunda in 2016, the old stadium had it bit of a make-over. Blue (yes, blue) seats were installed in the lower tier of the main stand, whilst the north and east terraces were re-faced and blue seating installed.
La Condomina has hosted professional football for over 90 years. It is a great example of a dying breed; A relic of an era when football clubs wanted to be in the heart of the city. Terracing is tight up against the touchlines, whilst the main stand towers almost ludicrously above the pitch. There is nothing in the way of additional spectator facilities inside the ground, you just walk across the street to the bars that line the adjacent avenues. Great for pre and post match atmosphere, but a disaster for today’s corporate conscious clubs. The stadium was due to be demolished in 2008 and make way for housing and a sports centre, but the financial crisis has put a stop to that. Problems with the structure of the south terrace led to its demolition in 2009, but as the current tenants only use the lower tier of the main stand, this is not a problem. In fact the biggest crowds to attend La Condomina in the past few years have come for the music festivals and concerts. With little in the way of money to develop the site, the fat lady can wait in the wings for a little longer.