The FC Barcelona board is being accused of stiffing season ticket holders as a story reported by the Catalan TV channel TV3 reveals “anomalies” in 10 matches. Jordi Cardoner, Barcelona's vicepresident, has come out strongly to deny the accusation: "Barça is acting correctly,” he said in a press conference this morning.
At the root is a controversial practice under the Seient Lliure (Free Seat) policy. Some background here: FC Barcelona match tickets are relatively expensive in comparison to other teams in Spain, but season tickets are priced relatively cheap. This means there are big waiting lists for a season ticket. Not to mention, season ticket holding fans can afford to miss a few matches per season, since the cost of the season ticket is not as high.
The Seient Lliure policy allows Barça the ability to fill the stadium and make profit even when season ticket holders don’t show up. Season ticket holders can declare their seat free for certain matches, meaning other people can book the seat. The profit for the sale of the ticket is then supposed to be split evenly among the season ticket holder and the club. After processing fees and taxes, they earn over a third of the money from the sale.
However, according to the TV3 report, for 10 matches in the past three seasons, Barcelona sold tickets at an extra high price, promising a “VIP experience.” However, despite this higher price, the season ticket holder did not get extra profit. They received the regular amount of money they would have if the seat was sold without the “VIP experience.”
For example, a ticket that normally went for about €250 instead was sold for about €1,000 with the “VIP experience”, which included catered food and other perks. But the socis still received only about a third of the original €250. The rest of the profit was pocketed by the club.
Cardoner defended the practice, saying the actual seat was sold at the same price, and thus the soci still gets the money he or she deserves. The extra profit, Cardoner argued, was for the VIP experience in itself and thus not part of the Seient Lliure agreement.
The socis were not informed of this practice, and TV3’s report is the first they’re hearing about it. Cardoner attacked TV3 directly, saying their report was “false” and they consider the practice “fair.”
Do they have a point?
Well, some fans argue, the seat was sold in conjunction with the VIP experience; they cannot be purchased separately. Doesn’t that entitle season ticket holders to part of that money? And why were they not informed of the practice?