SINGAPORE: La Liga fans are a vocal and passionate bunch, and supporters of Valencia are no different. To new Valencia president, Singaporean Anil Murthy, who will officially take over from incumbent Chan Lay Hoon in July, winning back the support of the Valencia faithful will rank highest on his to-do list.
Valencia's fans are used to success. Their accolades include six La Liga titles, seven Copa del Ray trophies and one UEFA Cup title, in addition to being two-time UEFA Champions League runners-up.
To win back fan support, the former diplomat knows his job involves improving the club’s current fortunes on the field.
“Fans naturally are unhappy when their team is not doing well. People have manifested their unhappiness repeatedly outside the stadium. We’ve all seen the pictures in the press,” said Murthy. “They want to see the club do better, and that is my clear objective. (Which is to) improve the club in many aspects, but with a single objective - to win! And to finish the next season high, and also the seasons after.”
It has not been smooth-sailing for current president Chan. While Valencia finished fourth in La Liga in 2015, the team finished 12th last season and are on-course for another mid-table finish for the current campaign.
“Fans in Valencia are notorious for their level of demand of the club. But with good and consistent results, we will succeed,” said Murthy, in his interview with Channel NewsAsia.
Announced as Chan’s successor after she stepped down earlier this month, Murthy - who was the executive director - said in a media conference in Spain that club owner Peter Lim will not be selling Valencia any time soon. “There is nothing regarding the sale of the club. Not for €2 million, not for €1 billion," said Murthy, dismissing rumours of Lim planning to let go of the club, after taking over in October 2014.
Apart from Murthy's upcoming promotion, the club has also hired new board members to steer its fortunes. Said the soon-to-be Valencia president: “We have the tools to succeed. In addition to my announcement, two recent changes include the new CEO, Mateu Alemany, and the Sporting Director, Jose Ramon Alesanco. Two great professionals who will play a very important role in this project.”
HAVING A SOLID BASE
Murthy also paid tribute to Chan’s work behind-the-scenes, in improving the administrative structure of Valencia. He said: “Another very important point is the strong base that Lay Hoon has built for the club. When she arrived just over two years ago, the performance on the field may have been better, but the company was in very bad shape.
“She leaves the club with institutional and financial stability. A task that is not completed yet and we must continue. All staff inside the club know how much work she put in to solve major issues that had been largely ignored by her predecessors.“
He added: “This work which is invisible to fans and the press is what will allow us now to grow. Without this stability, the club can never reach its objectives except through pure luck and this will not sustain.
“So I am proud to take over the club in the state that Lay Hoon is leaving it.”
Although he will not be blessed with a big transfer kitty like fellow La Liga rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona, the new Valencia president said the club will instead prepare early for next season.
“We’re not in European competition this year, which means less revenue,” said Murthy. “Financial Fair Play rules also restrict our financial ability to manoeuvre, so it’s complicated. But we have started early, which is an advantage.”
Not having a background in football administration is something Murthy will have to overcome and he will instead bank on his years of diplomatic experience. “I learnt from my former big boss at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Ambassadors may be Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary during their postings.
“Then you return to Singapore and you are just Ordinary. So I know that Anil Murthy, Mr President, will be just Mr Murthy one day. And I must ensure that when that day comes, the club is in good shape.”
He added: “With this clearly in my mind, I know I am not here for fame or to be adored as the president of Valencia. I am here to build a strong club and that's what I will dedicate myself to.”