The ex-president also revealed interesting news about the club’s goals.
BARCELONA, Spain (27 October 2020) — Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu resigned Tuesday afternoon amid the fallout of his feud with all-world star Lionel Messi.
After one of the club’s worst seasons in more than a decade, Bartomeu announced that his entire board of directors also resigned, effectively avoiding a motion of censure vote that was scheduled for the coming weeks. A total of 20,687 votes were gathered for the motion against Bartomeu, passing the threshold of 16,250 signatures required for the vote to go ahead.
Six board members had already resigned back in April: vice-presidents Emili Rousaud and Enrique Tombas, directors Silvio Elias, Josep Pont, Jordi Calsamiglia and Maria Teixidor, the secretary of the board. All of them had criticised Bartomeu’s handling of the club. After the April resignations, Bartomeu was able to continue in the presidency because the number of those resigning (6) was below 50% of the board. Barcelona’s bylaws state that there must be at least 14 board members and the six resignations reduced that to 13.
Bartomeu has been under heavy fire by the club’s socios (members). Barcelona is a member-owned club and members elect the board of directors as well as the president.
Equally damaging had been claims that Barcelona had paid the company I3 Ventures to set up online accounts that allegedly wrote stories defending the president and damaging the image of some players and former players. It is claimed the service was paid for in three instalments, allegedly to avoid it being detected by internal financial controls. The letter from the six directors called for the PricewaterhouseCoopers investigation into “Barcagate” to be concluded, and if appropriate, for action to be taken and money returned.
The president had been due to officially end his tenure next year, with elections called for March 2021, but the club’s members called for a vote of no confidence in an effort to get Bartomeu out now. Bartomeu’s wanted to delay the vote on a new president, citing health concerns for the club’s more than 110,000 members amid the coronavirus pandemic, but local officials earlier in the day authorised the vote to take place. The average age of Barcelona’s members is 58, and over 40,000 of them are age 60 plus, a group that is at a higher risj of contracting COVID-19. Spain is also under a newly imposed curfew (toque de queda) after a resurgence of the virus throughout the autonomous regions of the country.
“We have to act responsibly,” Bartomeu said. “For that reason we cannot hold the vote of censure in the current circumstances. It was necessary to do so in conditions that guaranteed everybody’s health. We cannot nor want to put ourselves in a position of having to choose between protecting people’s health and exercising the right to vote. For that reason we have taken the decision to not call the vote and resign forthwith.”
Bartomeu’s resignation will come as welcome news. More than 20,000 Barcelona members had signed a petition for Bartomeu and his board to face a motion of censure. The petition was made not long after Messi said he wanted to leave the club, and following the team’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in August in the Champions League, a result that capped the club’s first season without winning any trophy since 2007-08.
Bartomeu’s fate had likely been determined since he was heavily criticised by Gerard Piqué and then Lionel Messi, who was furious that a summer exit from the Catalán club was blocked.
Messi was critical of club directors throughout last season and said he didn’t like the direction the club was headed. He personally complained of Bartomeu for not keeping his promise to let him leave.
Bartomeu said on Monday that he explained to Messi and his family that he could not let the world’s best player depart before the end of his contract, which expires on June 30, 2021, after the end of the current La Liga season.
Bartomeu had also said that resigning had not crossed his mind.
He said “the desire of this board of directors has never been to hold on to power at the club,” which will now be managed by an interim board until new elections can be held.
“We know that we will leave the club in the hands of an interim board that, in the current circumstances of the pandemic, has no guarantee of being able to hold elections in the short term,” he said. “We know that and I hope that the interim board will be able to carry out our decisions to help the club through the pandemic crisis.”
Bartomeu added on his way out that the club had given its initial approval to a new competition, and would be very interested in joining a potential new super league of elite European teams.
“I can announce that we approved the requirements to be part of a European Super League,” Bartomeu said. “The decision to play the competition now must be ratified by the next (club) assembly.”
It was not immediately clear from Bartomeu’s comments who would be organizing a Super League or if such a competition would only replace the UEFA-run Champions League.
Bartomeu, who did not answer questions Tuesday, is leaving nearly seven years after he took over the club following the resignation of Sandro Rosell in 2014.
After the team’s loss to Bayern, Bartomeu announced “profound changes” to the club and called for new presidential elections for March. He said he knew “unpopular and uncomfortable” decisions would have to be made.
“It would be the easy thing to do to quit after the elimination in the Champions League, but we had to guarantee the club’s future in the middle of a world crisis without precedents,” he said. “We had no reason to resign when new elections had already been scheduled.”
Cover: President of FC Barcelona Josep Bartomeu at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain. Bartomeu on Tuesday Oct. 27, 2020, announced plans to quit his Barcelona role. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, FILE)