On Monday 01/03 police raided the offices of FC Barcelona and carried out several arrests just six days ahead of the club’s presidential elections. Not only has the team had a disappointing season so far, but they are also close to exiting from the football betting after their 4-1 defeat against PSG. The raid is rumoured to be related to the “Barcagate” scandal in 2020.
According to Spanish media reports the police detained former FC Barcelona’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu, the club’s CEO Oscar Grau, general counsel, Roman Gomez Ponti and one more unknown individual. The club confirmed the police raid but declined to confirm any arrests. The local police as well confirmed that arrests had been made but did not mention any names. Charges have not been made yet, and everyone is denying any wrongdoings. None of the arrested individuals have commented anything on the case yet.
FC Barcelona published a statement on Monday at 03:15 PM, describing how they have offered up their full collaboration to the legal and police authorities to make all facts clear. They added how they “express their utmost respect for the judicial process in place and the principle of presumed innocence for the people affected within the remit of this investigation.
What is the Barcagate scandal?
The “Barcagate” scandal is thought to be the reason for these events. In 2020 FC Barcelona denied hiring a firm to attack and criticize their players on social media, especially Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique. A radio station had claimed the club wanting to protect its reputation and then president Josep Maria Bartomeus’ image and opinions had tried to damage anyone who disagreed with them, including its own players. Social media attacks were made on star players Messi and Pique, but also former manager Pep Guardiola, ex-players Xavi and Carles Puyol and some of the ex-president’s rivals.
A Spanish radio station said that Barcelona had paid one million euros in six separate invoices to a company they have since cut ties with I3 Ventures. That social media company was commissioned to start smear campaigns through various accounts in the social network. The matter became even more dubious when it was discovered that FC Barcelona had paid the social media company a fee well above the normal market price. It is estimated that Barcelona paid six times the usual rates for the services.
Ex-board member Emili Rousaud, who resigned from the board of FC Barcelona in April 2020, made serious allegations against Josep Maria Bartomeu and the rest of the board. On the radio show El Larguero, Rousaud claimed in connection with Barçagate: “There are facts that prove that there are certain behaviors that are classified as corruption. Somebody’s got their hands in their coffers.”
The club then launched an internal investigation conducted by the reputable accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Ultimately, however, PwC was unable to uncover any corruption-related activities. The ‘Barçagate’ case seemed closed, at least for now. But as early as September, the Catalan civilian police recognized Mosso’s signs of corruption and therefore passed the case on to the court. Now the ‘Barçagate’ scandal is being rolled out again – with potentially serious consequences for Bartomeu, Grau, Masferrer, and Co.
Bartomeu resigned in October last year after lots of pressure, controversies, and a substantial drop in performance. His successor is due to be elected this coming Sunday.
FC Barcelona: what’s next?
The members of FC Barcelona will be voting for a new president in next Sunday’s election. The election was supposed to be carried out in January but was postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions in Catalonia. The three candidates are Victor Font, Joan Laporta, and Toni Freia.
Toni Freia commented on the arrests by saying there are way too many people that want to cause problems to FC Barcelona. “We will not permit it. You will never walk alone.” is what he added. Joan Laporta on the other hand was shocked about the news of the arrest of former president Bartomeu. He explained it was not good news nor pleasant for the club. Bartomeu may not have had good management, but he still was president. Laporta is right to worry about Barcelona dealing with the damage to their credibility and public relations. Victor Font also commented on the recent events. He believes it is time for changes in the club, and that only change will ensure that these kinds of situations will not happen again. The old model is not working anymore, the club needs to become much more transparent. Font adds how important it is for representative bodies to be truly independent of who is in charge.
Joan Laporta (58), who previously collected 10,257 signatures for approval, was already President of Barca from 2003 to 2010 and is once again the big favorite. Víctor Font, 48, who collected 4,710 supporter signatures, dreams of bringing back Barca legends Pep Guardiola, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, and Carles Puyol. Toni Freia (52), who collected 2,821 signatures, promised to have an investor on hand who would buy 49% of the shares in the monstrously indebted club for 250 million euros, should he be elected.
All candidates promise a return to the successful past but keep silent about how a highly indebted club that can no longer pay its taxes is supposed to put together a powerful international squad. All three also promise to get Messi to stay. The 33-year-old has lived in Barcelona for almost 20 years and his contract expires in the summer. He could switch clubs for free, and so far, it does not look like he has found the happiness he longs for in his final years as a professional.