Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way early: this isn’t an article that I had been planning to write. The topic of politics at FC Barcelona is a divisive subject, one that has created seemingly irrevocable rifts within the fanbase. My views on that particular aspect of the club have changed over the years, and there will be many who have disagreed with me in the past, almost all of them for perfectly valid reasons. Hindsight, as the saying goes, really is 20:20 and knowing what I know now, I would certainly reconsider the stance I took previously.
However, all that is in the past, no-one really cares what the writer thinks in any given article and all that matters for FC Barcelona is the here and now. The club finds itself at a crossroads, both in terms of their sporting project and in terms of the overall management. Ernesto Valverde has assumed the reins of the senior squad after a difficult final season under Luis Enrique, and the Blaugrana prepare to enter the season as underdogs in both the La Liga and UEFA Champions League title race as per Bet365 betting, representing the first time since 2008/09.
Meanwhile, incumbent President, Josep Maria Bartomeu could face a vote of no confidence after Agusti Benedito claimed to have the necessary level of support required to officially lodge the vote with the club.
More details will be confirmed at a press conference this coming week, but the initial news has been met largely with jubilation from Barcelona fans across the world. After an underwhelming start to the summer transfer window, Bartomeu’s support is dwindling fast and this is seen by many as the first step in a decisive plan of action to restore FC Barcelona to its former glory from both a competitive and ethical standpoint.
Under the guidance of Sandro Rosell and Bartomeu, the club has found itself dragged through the courts on far too many occasions. There were irregularities with the tax treatment of the signing of Neymar, there was the issue of supposed debts created by Joan Laporta, since quashed by the courts, and of course there was a transfer ban that was eventually upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The més que un club mantra that had defined the club for decades was now just a tired marketing slogan.
The belief is that someone, anyone else would be an upgrade on the current situation and therefore the claims of sufficient support for such a vote should be welcomed. The reality is that Agusti Benedito may have jumped the gun once again. Claims out of Catalunya and from sources close to the club report that Benedito has only gathered 9,817 emails, well below his original target of 16,500 and even his reduced target of 10,000.
Should Benedito continue on the war-path, he would be required to present 16,500 physical signatures to the club – a feat that would require far more coordination and commitment from the socios. The email support, or lack thereof, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Irony, given how this was perceived to be the simplest step of the process.
Unfortunately, this isn't the first instance of Benedito failing to make good on his grandiose promises and soundbite quotations. In the 2015 elections, Benedito campaigned with the promise of unveiling a new sponsor for the club. As the ongoing affiliation with Qatar continued to come under scrutiny and protest, the claim of a new sponsor worth €80m per annum was appealing.
As the world clamoured to predict the prospective company, Benedito later revealed the prospective sponsor to be Flight Energy. Anyone interested in learning more about this company should take a quick detour on Google, this will be the first sign that perhaps Benedito isn't the saviour that he proclaims himself to be.
While he criticized the club for their ties with Qatar, he did so after resigning from his previous position in the Laporta administration once he learned the extent of the club's links with Uzbekistan's FC Bunyodkor and, by proxy, the daughter of the country's now deceased dictator, Islam Karimov. The partnership was likened by a former U.K. Ambassador to Uzbekistan as akin to "doing a deal with Adolf Hitler in 1930's Germany to promote a team in Berlin". The regime had been accused of multiple human rights violations, while in reports by the United Nations, torture was said to be "systemic" for anyone who opposed Karimov's rule.
Much like the club's recent affiliations with Qatar, the deal contradicted the very values that FC Barcelona claim to live and breathe. In previous eras, the club and the Camp Nou stood as a symbol of defiance in the face of Catalan oppression from the Franco regime, yet fast forward to the new millennium and FC Barcelona, the global brand, were simply following the money and were not ethically inclined enough to ask questions about where those same funds were coming from.
Bartomeu, Benedito, Laporta and even Freixa; they all might talk a good game about fighting to restore the club’s ideals and how they have all the answers but at the end of the day, they have proven themselves time and time again to be perpetual liars. Each candidate has bent the truth to suit their own campaign, or turned a blind eye to an ethically grey area in the hope that no-one would notice, and rarely are any of them held accountable for their failures or shortcomings.
Only time will tell whether Benedito’s motion will go ahead and gain the required support to cause problems for Bartomeu, but at this stage even if it’s successful, I’d like to see a new name enter the race.
This club needs a fresh face and a clean break from its past. Only then will the rifts begin to heal and will the club be united once again.