For every Real Madrid or FC Barcelona, there are one hundred clubs like Ontinyent Club de Fútbol. They are consigned to spend the majority of their time in the semi-professional third and fourth tiers, holding on to the hope that they might just get a year or two in La Segunda. That, in essence, was an outline of Ontinyent CF’s history. Now let’s add some colour.
Ontinyent is a small town in the mountainous Serra Grossa region of the Comunidad Valenciana. Organised football had been played in the town since the early 1920s and the first senior team, Club Deportivo Onteniente was formed in 1923. The club played their matches at Camp de La Farinera, a privately owned field built on the site of an old flour mill on the banks of the Rio Clariano. On 30 March 1931, CD Onteniente merged with CD Ideal to form Onteniente Foot-ball Club. After the Civil War, the club made steady progress, and with the help of a squad of players from far & wide, reached the Tercera in 1943. The reorganisation of the league presented the club with the problem of increased expenses, and with debts already high, they withdrew from the competition. Sanctioned by the Valencian Federation, the club was banned from official competition until 1947, when under the name of Peña Deportiva Ideal, it rejoined.
Throughout this time, the Camp de La Farinera (also known as the Campo de Deportes El Clariano) continued to serve as home, but its basic facilities led to a campaign to build a new, multi-sports facility. The municipality had originally looked at refurbishing La Farinera, but was unable to reach an agreement with the landowners. So in June 1950, following a donation of land and money from local businessmen, the municipality stumped up 320,000 pesetas to build a new stadium to the east of the town, on the road to neighbouring Albaida.
The new stadium was named El Clariano and was opened by General José Moscardó on 10 January 1951 with a friendly match against Valencia CF. It featured a half-length propped roofed grandstand on the west side and a narrow terrace opposite. Two ornate sets of gates were built at the north and east ends whilst a bell tower stood in the northeast corner. Pena Deportiva Ideal changed their name to Onteniente Peña Ideal and finally reached the Tercera in 1955. Under the new name of Onteniente Club de Fútbol, results gradually improved with the club finishing runners-up to Olimpic de Xativa in 1960-61, but lost out to Burgos CF in the playoffs. The Tercera championship was secured two years later and after playoff victories over SD Eibar and CD Hispana, so was promotion to La Segunda.
Before they could debut in the southern section of La Segunda, El Clariano required some work, so the municipality constructed an open terrace at the southern end of the ground. That first 1963-64 season saw the club finish a creditable tenth, losing just one match at El Clariano. The following 65-66 season proved much more difficult and the club eventually finished 15th and was relegated. Three years later and Onteniente was back in a nationwide La Segunda and this time stayed in La Segunda for three seasons, finishing ninth in 1969-70. Relegation followed, however, a season later and whilst the west side of the stadium was redeveloped in 1973 with the building of a full-length tribuna, the club has never managed to return to the second tier.
The club has spent 30 of the past 45 seasons in the Tercera. It changed its name in 1995 to the Valenciana version, Ontinyent Club de Fútbol and that decade also saw floodlights erected for the first time. El Clariano was refurbished in 2000 with the main stand reseated, whilst the southern terrace was removed. The club had three spells in Segunda B during the 1970’s & 1990s and returned to this level for the 2007-08 season. The 2009-10 season saw the club have its most successful season in nearly forty years when finishing third in Group III of Segunda B. In the playoffs, Ontinyent eliminated CD Guadalajara and SD Eibar before losing in the final minute of their away tie with Alcorcón. Things began to unravel midway through the 2012-13 season, with the club just avoiding relegation. There would be no escape a year later with Ontinyent finishing adrift at the foot of the table. The club’s financial difficulties continued, and whilst promotion back to Segunda B was achieved in 2017, it didn’t keep the wolf from the door for long. Eventually, Ontinyent CF was wound up on 29 March 2019, with debts in excess of €1m.
El Clariano is a delightful enclosure, that is simple and pristine. The main feature, the west Tribuna, is bedecked with six rows of pale blue seats that sit eight feet above pitch level. The rear two rows are arranged into palcos or pens of eight free-standing seats. Despite its smart appearance, it is an old design, with the tell-tell signs being just the one central access point for spectators and the low dark changing facilities beneath the stand.
The northern end still has the bell tower and triple-arched gateway, whilst the east terrace is still divided into two sections, at the centre of which stands the double-arched gateway. One wonders how much of the stadium would remain if a club from Ontinyent reached La Segunda? In an era of identikit stadiums, El Clariano is an uncomplicated joy.