PETE JENSON: Whether it’s incompetence or something more sinister, Barcelona has been run like a PUB TEAM for five years. The former president is now being grilled by police and the club has lost any claims of class or grandeur
The image of Barcelona over the last five years has sometimes resembled that of a Sunday league pub side with a crooked treasurer, rather than one of the biggest sporting institutions in the world.
Instead of the subs money disappearing and the club being investigated for fielding ringers in the County Cup there’s been that ever-increasing hole in the club’s €1billion (£863m) finances and the various ways in which board members might have enabled the situation to reach its current crisis point and what they might be doing to cover their tracks.
This is the week leading up to the March 7 elections at Barcelona and I thought I would be reporting on the various versions of the brand new dawn that’s about to break.
Barcelona has been run more like a pub team than one of world football’s heavyweights
Instead it’s just another in a long line of charades not befitting a sporting entity of Barça’s class and grandeur.
There was a presidential candidate debate over the week but who cares about that now that the Camp Nou has been raided and the former Barcelona president taken in for questioning by police.
Speaking to people who have had dealings with the club I have always been assured that what has happened at Barcelona in recent years has happened not because of corruption but because of rank incompetence.
Time will tell if that analysis turns out to have been accurate.
Camp Nou was raided by police on Monday morning as part of investigation into ‘Barcagate’
Former president Josep Maria Bartomeu oversaw the club’s demise and was taken in for questioning by police over his role in the alleged smear campaign against star names
The raids relate to a sorry sequence of events that were first reported on a year ago when Spanish radio station Cadena Ser revealed that a company hired to monitor Barcelona’s presence on social media was linked to a series of social media accounts that ran negative stories about club figures who were in potential opposition to president Bartomeu.
A subsequent investigation by audit company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) ruled that Barcelona had not commissioned the company i3 Ventures to run a smear campaign against important club figures.
It also said the club had not paid the company over market price but Spanish paper El Mundo reported that the police had concluded that an audit commissioned by an interested party could not be ‘conclusive’ and wanted to continue their investigation.
Officials are accused of launching a smear campaign against current and former players who were critical of the club and then-president Bartomeu, including Lionel Messi
Payments to the company added up to €1m (£860,000) and had been broken down into amounts of less than €200,000 (£170,000) meaning they evaded the club’s internal checking mechanism.
Six board members subsequently quit, including Emili Rousaud who made the startling statement to Catalan radio RAC1: ‘I think someone has had their hand in the till, although I don’t know who.
‘You pay €1m (£860,000) [to I3 Ventures] for a job that has a market price of €100,000 (£86,000).’
Bartomeu has always denied any wrong doing but on Monday he was picked up at his home in the city and taken in for questioning.
The expectation in Barcelona is that he will be released without charge later on Monday but as favourite to be next Barça president, Joan Laporta said this is ‘bad for the image of the club’.
Barcelona have huge debt problems after Bartomeu’s time as president.
One online commentary on the images of the police making there way into the club offices summed up the deep crisis at the club. It said: ‘Well, one things for sure, they won’t find any money there.’