Back in 2005, Pontevedra Municipal Council decided to redevelop the ageing stadium that stood just north of the Río Lérez. Given that the resident club Pontevedra Club de Fútbol had just won promotion to La Segunda, it seemed a credible decision. The stadium was to be rebuilt stand by stand, commencing with the north and south stands in 2006. Over the next 4 years, the stadium took shape and finally on 15 May 2010, the new 12,000 seat Nuevo Pasarón was inaugurated with a match against Real Oviedo.
Unfortunately, whilst all the building was taking place, on-field progress was gradually being dismantled. Relegated from La Segunda after just the one season in June 2005, the club made valiant attempts to return, falling in the play-offs in four of the next five seasons. The 2010-11 season was however a disaster and the club was relegated to the Tercera. I’m sure the Municipality will argue that the stadium needed to be redeveloped and a very fine job they have done to, albeit over double the original cost at 16 million euros. However, ask the fans of Pontevedra CF and they would swap this splendid new arena for a place back in La Segunda in the bat of an eyelid.
It wasn’t always thus, as football in Pontevedra has a proud heritage dating back over one hundred years. The exact date of the emergence of the city’s first club is unclear, however by the mid-1900’s Sporting Club Pontevedra was playing other teams from all over Galicia. The 1920’s was particularly productive and it witnessed the birth of a number of clubs, most notably Eiriña FC, who played their home matches on a field that is now the site of of the current stadium. Eiriña played in the Tercera for three seasons in the early 1930’s and won the Copa de Galicia in 1935. Also founded in the twenties was Alfonso XIII FC who became Sport Club Pontevedra in 1932. It was the merger of Eiriña FC & SC Pontevedra that finally gave rise to Pontevedra Club de Fútbol on 16 October 1941. The club chose to use the basic enclosure of Eiriña’s which now went by the name of Pasarón. The club made swift progress, winning the Galician Campeonato de Primera Regional in 1943 and with it, promotion to the Tercera. The Tercera title was won in 1947-48, but failure in the play-offs against more established opposition such as Racing Santander & Osasuna, ended the club’s hopes of promotion. In fact it would take over a decade for the club to mount another serious challenge for a place in the second division.
If the 1940’s had been been about hope, much of the fifties were spent fighting relegation back to the regional leagues. The inevitable fall came at the end of the 1956-57 season, but fortunately, the club bounced back immediately and within two seasons, had secured a second Tercera title. This time the play-offs were navigated successfully, although it did take three matches to see off Caudal Deportivo and another three to beat Burgos CF. With football in La Segunda on the horizon, the local council moved swiftly to purchase the Campo Pasarón from Valentín Paz Andrade, a local politician and lawyer. With the club showing signs of progress, municipal architects Emilio Quiroga Losada and Alfonso Barreiro Buján designed a new west stand which opened for the start of the 1962-63 season, a campaign that was to prove momentous. Pontevedra’s first two seasons in La Segunda had resulted in mid-table finishes, but form throughout the 62-63 campaign was impressive. The club headed the table for the majority of the season and won a pivotal match at their nearest challengers Espanyol on 7 April 1963, before clinching the title and promotion a week later with a home draw against Celta Vigo.
The 1960’s was the club’s golden era, and whilst the first season in La Primera ended in relegation, La Segunda title was won for a second time in May 1965. Pontevedra was more resolute this time around and the 1965-66 season saw the club top the league in early October and finish the season in a record high of seventh position. The Estadio Pasarón was also shaping up nicely with the addition on the east side of a large stand and improved terracing at the north and south ends of the stadium. There followed a further four seasons in the top flight, with the end coming at the end of the 1969-70 season, when a dismal last place finish saw the club win on just four occasions. The club never challenged for a return to the top tier and was relegated to the Tercera in 1973. That 72-73 season also saw a tragedy at the Estadio Pasarón, when Sevilla forward Pedro Berruezo suffered a heart attack and died on 7 January 1973.
Pontevedra made a brief return to the second division in season 76-77, but a lowly 17th place finish saw the club demoted to the newly formed Segunda B, and it’s the third tier of Spanish football that has been the club’s home for the vast majority of campaigns since. The exceptions have been a spells back in the Tercera in the early eighties and the single season back in La Segunda in 2004-05. Regrettably, Pontevedra made an appalling start to the season, winning just two of the first 29 fixtures, leading to an inevitable relegation back to Segunda B. The next 5 seasons saw 4 visits to the play-offs, but no cigar. With budgets drastically cut for the 2010-11 season, the side was unrecognisable from the season before, and was relegated to the Tercera for the first time in nearly thirty years.
For all of their woes, you have to concede that Pontevedra play in an exceptional stadium. Funded jointly by the Municipality of Pontevedra and the Xunta de Galicia, the four year process of redeveloping each side was expensive and at times tortuous. Architect Galo Zayas’ design was originally costed at 7.2 million euros, but came in at over double that amount. All four stands are partically identical in design, featuring an upper tier of of burgundy and yellow seats, although the west stand has small private booths or palcos at the rear. The upper tier is slightly cantilevered over a lower tier of blue and yellow seats. A steel and polycarbonate roof covers all four sides, which is on the high side and offers little in the way of cover for the lower tier. It is also pierced in each corner by the body of a floodlight. Each pylon continues through each of the tiers like a giant toothpick, creating the illusion that the whole structure is anchored by these square-shaped towers.
In the early summer of 2012, the local council successfully lobbied the RFEF and was granted the opportunity to host the Spain – Saudi Arabia friendly on 7 September 2012. I can’t say hand on heart that the stadium is worth every cent of its €16 million price tag, or that it has had a positive effect on Pontevedra CF. In fact, it would be much easier to argue the complete opposite. However, we all know that art comes at a price, and at the moment both club and the municipality are suffering for its art.