Former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has broken his silence since leaving the Camp Nou and hit back at Joan Laporta in a lengthy open letter to the club.
The 58-year-old has basically defended himself and his board while at the same time criticizing Laporta and his colleagues for their actions (or lack of) since taking over in March.
Bartomeu seems to have blamed everything he can think of for the club’s current difficult financial position. He writes about the “disastrous inheritance that your board left us” back in 2010, mentions the pandemic a few times, and deals he would have signed if he was still in charge and the CVC deal.
The former president also signs off by asking for Laporta to “make public, and as soon as possible, the detailed results of the audit” and evidence of any irregularities “to offer socios maximum transparency.”
Here’s the full text (via Sport):
Dear Mr. President
Thank you for watching
After your last statements and those of some members of your Board of Directors, I feel obliged to address you in order to clarify certain statements, clarify responsibilities and demand from you, as president, immediate actions against situations that are seriously affecting, for being misguided and manipulated, not only the image of the club, but also that of the Board of Directors that I had the honour of presiding over for almost seven years.
1) In the first place, I remind you that you asked the General Assembly of Undertaking Members, held on June 20, for the approval of the accounts for the 2019-20 financial year formulated by our board of directors, under the unquestionable argument that the liquidation faithfully reflected the state economic, financial and patrimonial of FC Barcelona as of June 30, 2020.
The majority approval of the result of the 2019-20 audit also validates the result of the mandate from July 2010 to June 2020. A mandate initiated by the Board of Directors of President Sandro Rosell, with the balance of a positive equity increase of 193 million, excluding losses caused by the pandemic from March 14 to June 30, 2020, which, according to Royal Decree 1162/2020 of December 22, will not be considered negative economic results in the years affected by Covid-19 for computational purposes of the guarantee.
Without subtracting these Covid losses of 97 million, although they also represent an increase of 96 million and a net worth for the club of 35 million, taking into account that we started the mandate in July 2010, with a negative equity of -60 million euros .
Now it is a very different situation from the one that occurred in 2010 when the losses of 80 million (season 2009-10), gave a negative result of the mandate (2003-2010) of 47.6 million euros. These negative results were, then, a disastrous inheritance that your board left us.
For this reason, in the application of the regulations derived from the Seventh Additional Provision of the Sports Law of 1992, it was mandatory to submit to the Assembly of October 2010 the vote to initiate a legal action of strict liability action for the replacement of the losses, not by our will, as in an interested way it was being explained badly, if not by complying with the law.
2) In relation to the responsibilities of my Board of Directors in the financial year 2020-21, as you well know, given the surprising position of the Procicat to authorise the convocation of the vote of no confidence on Sunday, November 1, 2020 at the Camp Nou, we decided to resign from our posts.
We did not want to put the health at risk, or in the situation of violating the municipal confinement, the restriction of mobility and assembly, ordered by the Government of the Generalitat on Thursday, October 29, just three days before the vote, of our 110,000 partners.
3) As a result of this dismissal of our Board -on October 27, 2020- it was impossible for us to continue making decisions aimed, above all, at avoiding the impact of the huge losses expected as a consequence of the alarming reduction in income caused by the pandemic. , which, until now, have not allowed the Camp Nou to reopen and, until a few weeks ago, have not allowed the Museum, the Camp Nou Experience, the Camp Nou Megastore and the rest of the Barça Stores to reopen. We are talking about the impossibility of making effective 43% (approximately 375 million euros) of the income of the 2020-21 season.
As is known, our Board of Directors had indicated March 21, 2021 as the electoral date, in the statutory term of the end of the mandate, which would have allowed us, in this case, to face and assume the total liquidation of the 2020 season -21 as was our wish, executing the necessary decisions to avoid reaching the current financial situation. We would have been solely responsible for the closure and its consequences. Decisions that the new Board has not taken during these months, exposing its inaction.
4) As of March 14, 2020, the start date of the state of alarm and total closure of the Club with the consequent unexpected and sudden drop in income, as was our obligation and with the utmost concern, from the first moment, our Board applied a non-refundable reduction of 12% in salaries to all players, coaches and sports professionals of the Club with effect on the 2019-20 season, which served to alleviate, at least, in part, the fall from income.
At the end of the summer of 2020, with the information provided by the Procicat, it was agreed to propose to the same players and coaches an adaptation and a postponement of salary payments based on the expected gradual return of the public at the Camp Nou and the tourism in our city, an estimate that was expected from February 2021. Projections that were not met and that, according to our plan, if the facilities were closed until June 2021, it was necessary to apply a new reduction of the salaries, in this case 20% (about 90 million), for the 2020-21 season.
Our board was no longer there to undertake the necessary and urgent corrections. It is a decision that could only be made by the new incoming Board of Directors, after the elections, but there was no action on their part.
5) Likewise, as of April 2020, we started the Barça Corporate project, consisting, to summarise it, in the entry of strategic partners up to 49% for the joint exploitation of the four commercial assets not directly linked to income from sports competitions :
- Barça Licensing and Merchandising (BLM): network of stores for the commercialization of clothing and product licenses.
- Barça Studios: the most relevant sports digital innovation center worldwide, via content, big data and audiovisual production.
- Barça Innovation Hub: platform to promote scientific and technological research applied to sport and knowledge.
- Barça Academy: about 50 teaching centers around the world, of the comprehensive training model for soccer sports and values.
We were able to finalise the confidential dossier and the negotiations initiated with a total of four interested companies: Blackstone, the consortium -Investindustrial, Elysian and Fanatics-, Abry Partners and Artos. I know that the Management Commission transferred the letters of intent (LOI) to you through Goldman Sachs, but there has been no reaction from your Board in this regard.
In the event that your board had approved it, it would have meant a minimum capital inflow of 220 million with the aim of reducing income losses due to Covid that, without subscriptions, ticketing, museum, football schools, shops, tours, etc. ... in the entire 2020-21 season they could be about 375 million.
If to these 220 million we had added the necessary reduction of 20% (90 million) of the players’ contracts, essential from March 2021 when the most pessimistic expectations were confirmed, at this point, the salary ratio marked by La Liga would be fulfilled, allowing the registration of players.
And with the possible income of 270 million from the agreement of the League with CVC, today we would be talking about a practically zero level of affectation due to income losses due to COVID’19.
We also left on the table, logically subject to the approval of the partners, the entry of FC Barcelona into the pull of clubs promoting the Super League, which would have meant a net entry of 350 million during the month of May 2021. At the Once, it meant a growth in the football market where clubs, like ours, who are not SAD, are losing the battle against the Club-State or against the power of the Premier League, with its exploitation parameters, insensitive to the Social co-ownership that we Barça fans enjoy.
6) It is clear, then, that our Board of Directors was fully responsible for the sports planning of the 2020-21 season (the squads were closed at the beginning of October), but, in no case, were we able to execute the plans and economic actions planned. As has been shown, it was absolutely necessary to take measures in the face of the possible increase in the impact of the pandemic in the form of an exceptional fall in income and the inevitable reduction in the wage bill, which your Board could have applied. In this sense, and before our resignation, we started and set up the labor negotiation table to face the terrible impact that the Covid was having on the Club.
The lack of reaction and action of its Board of Directors to improve this balance of the 2020-21 season is surprising, despite being perfectly aware of the economic and financial situation of our Club, long before winning the elections, when the Management Commission , in several meetings, he exposed it to all the candidates.
Also surprising is his decision to forgive 16.5 million to the former player Neymar in the framework of a litigation where the expectations in favor of FC Barcelona were quite clear and the auditor did not oblige, in any case, to supply any amount. Why did you make this decision contrary to the interests of the Club?
7) I will not be the one who denies or does not admit that the situation of FC Barcelona, due to the pandemic was and is complex, and of enormous difficulty, especially derived from a salary base, which we took to the limits allowed by the League, trying to prolong and maintain the best football team in history for 13 years and to be able to compete with the teams of the Premier League and other State run clubs with practically inexhaustible resources.
It was necessary to match the increasingly high offers for our ‘franchise’ players. This goal has been a colossal and ongoing effort to increase revenue. An effort that, on the other hand, has led us to be recognized by the prestigious economic magazine Forbes as the most valuable Club in the world in 2020 and by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) as the best team of the decade. 2011-2020, merit attributable to all the people who before and after our time at FC Barcelona have worked and will continue to work to maintain this excellence.
8) In the patrimonial area and in compliance with the mandate given by the socios in the referendum (2014), we also welcome the excellent news that it represents for FC Barcelona, the rejection of the few allegations raised against Espai Barça -approved by all the groups of the Plenary of the Barcelona City Council (except the CUP) - which represents the definitive and flawless green light for the processing of building permits. Also of the possible continuity of the financing plan with Goldman Sachs of an absolutely necessary and urgent Club project that has already begun with the construction of the Johan Cruyff Stadium and the demolition of the Miniestadi. In short, the approval of the modification of the general metropolitan plan (MPGM) has been a work of five years and a series of urban and neighborhood agreements, all of them validated by the Barcelona City Council.
9) In conclusion, this communication will serve to clarify the following points:
- The General Assembly of Committing Members on June 20, with your request for a favorable vote, approved the accounts for the 2019-20 season with benefits from our mandate (2010-2020) of 96 million (193 million without covid19) and a positive net worth of 35 million.
- We always work consciously and in compliance with the League salary ratio and the UEFA financial Fair Play limit in order to remain competitive against the Premier League and the Club-States, against whom we are clearly at a disadvantage.
- As a direct consequence of our dismissal, caused by the intransigence of the Procicat, we were not able to apply the economic and financial measures (Barça Corporate, salary reduction, possible Super League bonus and / or La Liga-CVC agreement bonus) planned against the 375 million in revenue reduction due to the impact of Covid, measures that your new Board would have had to apply.
- Our board, which left office on October 27, 2020, is not, by statute, responsible for the economic and financial settlement of the 2020-21 financial year.
- The announced losses of 487 million are surprising compared to a reduction in income of 375 million. They must be explained in detail to all partners. I hope it’s not like 2003, when we tried to write-down the book value of the outstanding amortization of certain players. Remember that it was not a decision accepted then by the Provincial Court of Barcelona.
- On the other hand, we do have full sporting responsibility as a result of the planning of all the sections of FC Barcelona, with quite good sporting results, especially satisfied with the contributions from the quarry.
- We leave the Espai Barça approved and fully validated by the Barcelona City Council.
10) Finally, I ask you to make public, and as soon as possible, the detailed results of the audit and / or due diligence and, if any, the precise information, to all partners of the irregularities that, allegedly, you indicate , to avoid speculation and suspicions about “allegedly criminal” actions and, also, to avoid interested and biased leaks in the media.
In the event of finding indications of irregular actions that, of course, I have neither ordered nor known, I promise to be the first to adopt the pertinent legal measures to clarify them, and, if necessary, punish these illegal assumptions.
My will in this regard remains the same, to offer socios maximum transparency.
Barcelona will reportedly respond to Bartomeu’s letter in the coming days.