Benfica will stage a presidential election this Thursday 27th October, and current incumbent Luís Filipe Vieira is running unopposed. Barring some wildly unprecedented rejection by the paying members of the Benfica organisation - known as sócios - he will win a fifth term as President. Ahead of the big day, David Pritchett and Carla Pereira explain all.
THE VOTING PROCESS
Voting is open on Thursday from 10:00 to 22:00, Portuguese time. Sócios can register their vote at one of five locations across Portugal: the Estádio da Luz, or the Casas do Benfica in Vila Nova de Famalicão, Coimbra, Évora and Faro. Sócios living in Madeira, the Azores or outside Portugal can vote online via the club’s official website. After the results have been collated, a ceremony will be held at around 23:00, at the Pavilhão Fidelidade, adjacent to the Estádio da Luz. Once re-elected, Vieira will have a mandate to govern Benfica until 2020.
VIEIRA’S TRACK RECORD
The 67-year old real estate tycoon is set to continue his spell as the club’s longest-serving President, with an active streak of nearly 13 years. The previous record-holder was Bento Mântua, who ran the club for 9 years and 34 days between 1917 and 1926.
With 5 Primeira Liga, 2 Taça de Portugal, 7 Taça da Liga and 3 Supertaça titles, Vieira has amassed more major honours than any of his predecessors, his closest rival being Duarte António Borges Coutinho, who won 7 Primeira Divisão and 3 Taça de Portugal titles during his 8-year presidency (1969-77).
This is not to say that Vieira’s tenure has been completely untroubled. Benfica recorded an €11 million loss in the 2011/12 season, despite significant income from the Champions League and the sales of Fábio Coentrão and Roberto, which prompted some sócios to call for his resignation.
Instead, he ran for a fourth term as President, declaring his intention to win three Portuguese Championships, reach a European final, and win at least 50 titles in Benfica’s other sporting divisions. He won the election comfortably and has never looked back, delivering on all three promises. The club’s financial position has also improved steadily over the past few years.
Vieira has named 8 Vice-Presidents on his 2016 ticket. Rui Cunha has renounced his vice-presidency to take up a lower-profile role in the club’s Finance department, citing personal reasons. Rui Gomes da Silva will depart the club entirely.
Allegedly, Vieira wants a complete separation between the club and the media (Gomes da Silva is a prominent TV journalist), while the pair have also clashed over club policy. Gomes da Silva has not ruled out bidding for the presidency himself in the future, but would never contemplate running against Vieira.
To fill the vice-presidential gaps, João Quinta will step up from the Finance department, and Fernando Tavares will return to the club after an absence of eight years. Tavares has been a vocal critic of Vieira in the past, and supported his opponent Rui Rangel in the 2012 election.
Having successfully completed his previous election promises, the Benfica President has revealed a set of new ones. His latest goal is to expand the club’s already-successful youth program, to build a self-sustainable club that produces all of its own players. He also intends to forge partnerships in the Far East, and to expand Benfica’s digital presence. On the pitch, Vieira wants a fourth-consecutive league title, and to “affirm” the club’s status in continental competition.