MADRID (AP) — Spanish second-division club Reus could be about to play its last match this weekend.
The Catalan club is on the brink of extinction after players demanded out of their contracts because they haven’t been paid in three months.
Reus has until next week to make the payments and keep the squad from dissolving. Otherwise, players will be free to find new clubs and Reus, founded in 1909, will be dropped from the league following Saturday’s home game against Cordoba.
Among the players affected is young U.S. defender Shaq Moore, who is playing with the team on a loan from Levante.
Fans have promised to rally in the city about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Barcelona to show their support for the players, but few expect the cash-strapped club to come through with the funds to pay them. Reus reportedly has a debt of 5 million euros ($5.6 million).
“The players are worried, it’s a serious problem,” David Aganzo, president of Spain’s players’ association, said on Thursday. “They want to get paid, as any other worker.”
The Spanish league is expected to pay the squad as part of its deal with the players’ association, but that won’t keep them from leaving the club. Without enough players, Reus will be dropped from the league after 18 rounds.
Reus’ past results will stand, and its future opponents will be automatically awarded three points.
The squad has only 16 professional players, and 12 of them went three months without payment this week, allowing them to legally request the end of their contracts.
“It’s not easy to play in the second division with only 16 players,” Aganzo said. “They want this situation solved.”
The club signed other players but could not register them without breaking financial rules set by the league to keep teams from overspending.
Reus players have blamed the club’s situation on majority stakeholder Joan Oliver, who hasn’t made many public appearances since the team’s problems surfaced. Spanish media report he has been trying to find new investors to save the club but was not close to reaching a deal.
The players met with Spanish league president Javier Tebas this week to try to find a solution, but they reportedly did not accept continuing to play after the league pays their salaries. They say it is the club’s responsibility to make the payments, and the deal doesn’t take into account other club employees.
Reus was promoted to the second division for the first time after winning the third division in 2016. It finished 11th two seasons ago, and 14th last season.
The team is 20th in the 22-team standings. It has four wins, four draws, and nine losses in 17 matches.
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