After numerous controversies, Catalan LaLiga giants FC Barcelona’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu and the whole Board of Directors have resigned today, October 27.
Below is the entire text of Josep Maria Bartomeu’s resignation speech as president of FC Barcelona:
Good evening Barça members,
I am here today to inform you of my resignation and that of the rest of the Board of Directors.
This is a well-considered, calm, consensual and collective decision by my fellow directors who have accompanied me over recent years in a loyal and committed fashion with regards to the project and the Club, and who have made so many sacrifices thinking always of Barça.
This morning, as you well know, I received a reply from the Catalan Government to the letter that we sent yesterday. Their reply was clear. I will read the text: ‘We inform you that the Catalan Government, represented by members from the Presidential, Interior and Health Departments, reiterate that there is no legal or sanitary impediment for the holding of the Vote of Censure, as long as they include, in the organisational protocol of the aforementioned vote of censure, the requirements that the PROCICAT technical group presented to FC Barcelona in the meeting which took place on 21 October.’ That means a decentralised vote.
To the point. They do not say anything else. They make no mention of our request in the same meeting and in previous meetings, which consisted of requesting legal coverage to have 15 days notice to be able to organise the necessary complicated logistics to hold a vote that respected the minimum of health and safety measures necessary at that moment. Decentralised voting that, for the first time, proposed voting in 21 different polling stations, distributed geographically, 13 in Catalonia and 8 in the rest of the state.
Neither do they talk about the date of the vote, even though they know that we are obliged to call it this very day, and if we do not, we will not be complying with our own Statutes.
For that reason we asked them for legal coverage. The same that they requested from the Central Government in order to take extreme measures such as the curfew amongst others. However, they have decided to not grant us what they themselves have requested and received from the State Government. Frankly, they have decided to wash their hands of the subject in the face of a situation that was uncomfortable for them without thinking of the consequences that their decision can have.
Immediately afterwards, at midday today, a meeting was called for the vote of censure committee. The representatives from the Club’s Board of Directors proposed holding the vote, as requested by the Catalan Government, in 21 different polling areas, but on 15 and 16 November, in order to be able to carry out the necessary logistics.
Both the representatives from the instigators of the vote, as well as the president of the committee, representing the Catalan Football Federation, not only opposed the idea but also that they would bring legal action against the Club’s Board of Directors. That was recorded in the minutes of the meeting taken by the notary.
Yesterday, in my appearance, I spoke of the astonishment provoked by such decisions. Today, I have to say that these decisions, aside from being contradictory, seem to us irresponsible.
I know that it is a strong statement but I cannot see another better that reflects what I think. At a time at which the Government itself is imposing painful measure on citizens que have serious social and economic consequences on families, businesses and where, as of yesterday, there is talk of even stricter measures such as weekend lockdowns, where experts talk of the danger of the collapse of our health care system, when also the same experts recommend lockdown of the entire population, where we see contradictory versions, from members of the Government themselves, such as the obligation or recommendation that all companies implement home working. At such a moment and in the circumstances, I cannot find any other word to describe this decision other than irresponsible.
However, we have to act responsibly. 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, so that nobody could fail to take part through fear or mobility problems, or because they formed part of a vulnerable group. 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.
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. 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.
The desire of this Board of Directors has never been to hold on to power at the Club, as we have heard repeatedly over the last few months. I can assure you of that.
So, why did we not resign before?
After being knocked out of the Champions League, the easiest thing was to leave. The easiest thing was to resign. Yet the day after that painful defeat we had to take decisions that we could not put off any more, key to guaranteeing the sporting future and immediate sustainability of the Club. Furthermore, we had to do so in the middle of a global crisis without precedent. We could not leave the Club in the hands of an Interim Board with limited powers.
Who would have found the new coach? Who would have handled transfers? Who would have fought for Leo Messi to stay? Who would have carried out the budget cuts? Who would have handled the salary adjustments of the professional sportspeople at the Club?
As a Board we understood that, out of responsibility, we have to take those decisions. The majority of which were uncomfortable and unpopular.
The most obvious sign that we were not holding on to power is that we called elections for the month of March. The earliest date allowed by the Statutes. That was because we believed that this would help to calm things down, allow teams to work and allow an ordered transition to the newly elected Board of Directors.
An early resignation would have led to the Club being tied up in an electoral process, a power vacuum, under the management of an Interim Board with limited powers that within a few weeks would have to take sporting and economic decisions with serious consequences that could not be put off.
That is what I explained in my appearance on Monday: we had no reason to resign with elections called for March and with lots of work related to our management still to be done. Work that, for reasons of responsibility, we could not shirk, despite the personal cost to us and our families.
A Club like Barça needs to have ordered transitions from one board to another. Too many times in the past we have found ourselves suddenly in the final stages of a mandate that has not allowed this to be carried out, something essential in an organisation of the dimensions of ours. It is for that reason that our statutes provide for an ample period of time to call elections: to allow this transition to be made in the best way possible.
In contrast, it has been suggested what we had hidden interests, things to hide, even that we wanted to avoid making financial commitments…False insinuations and unfortunately many of them motivated by electoral or political interests.
I have always accepted criticism. They say I am very resilient. I don’t know. What I do know is that I have accumulated enough experience, together with my fellow members of the Board the know the realities of managing the Club.
I have always said that self-criticism makes us stronger and that Barça has always come out of difficult times. However, what we have experienced in the last few months goes beyond any limit. We have been shown a lack of respect, to me and my fellow Board members; we have been insulted, threatened, even me and my family and my fellow Board members.
At the moment there are people who ask me what motivated me to join the Barça Board of Directors, first as a Board member and then as President and if it was really worth it. In fact, it has been an honour to serve my Club in this capacity.
Over all these years as a Board member and President I have tried to exercise my role representing the Club’s member with respect, humility and honesty.
Today, however, we are obliged to resign. And we have to do without having completed the financial measures this season to reduce our immediate expenditure and to guarantee the growth of our revenue. I hope in the days to come an agreement can be reached to implement our salary adjustment from part of the playing staff and our employees. A measure that, if it is not applied, could have serious consequences for the future of the Club. I have confidence that the Interim Board will be able to complete the process and that everyone can come to an agreement for the good of Barça.
Today I can announce something that will change in an extraordinary way the future revenue of the Club for the years to come.
The Board of Directors have approved the acceptance of requirements to take in a future European Superleague of clubs, a project put forward by the biggest clubs in Europe.
The details of these requirements will be made available to the next Board, and the decision about participation in this competition shall have to be ratified by the next Assembly of Delegate Members.
And I also wish to announce that we have approved the future new format for the Clubs World Cup.
We can say with pride that we are the best sports club in the world in terms of the value of its sponsorship revenue. We have achieved this in competition with clubs that are owned by huge magnates, corporations and even countries, and we have done that while maintaining our own ownership structure, with the club in the hands of the members, maintaining our nature as a club for the people, without raising season ticket prices since 2011 and still having lower prices than the big European clubs.
The European Superleague will guarantee the club’s financial stability, which will continue to belong to the members. It shall never become a limited sports company.
Our uniqueness means that we never have to share dividends among our members and that the almost 200 million accumulated profit that this Board has made since 2010, the highest profits ever achieved by any Board in the history of the club, shall be invested in sporting and capital projects.
The club is unquestionably solid, despite the difficulties we are going through. In these last three years we have developed new business lines, such as our digital strategy, with projects like the new OTT, Barça TV+, the development of contents through Barça Studios, the e-commerce platform for online sales and the research for new knowledge and new revenue via the Barça Innovation Hub.
The Barça Corporate program was passed yesterday, and pending its finalisation and approval of the Assembly of Delegate Members, it will generate greater value for these new projects and the club’s ordinary activities.
I’d also like to mention the Espai Barça, a club project approved by the members in a referendum and that will become one of Barça’s main sources of revenue in the future. Espai Barça is already happening, investments have already been made, and the first part of it, the Estadi Johan Cruyff, is already finished and operative. We shall be supplying the new Board with the political agreement, the technical projects and a funding proposal whereby the work will be paid without it having to affect the club’s ordinary affairs. Goldman Sachs is not asking for any kind of guarantee that would put the club’s viability at risk in any way.
It is worth looking up and remembering that since 2004, Barça fans have felt very privileged indeed. We are enjoying an extraordinary era of success, an unprecedented era in European football. There have been new cycles, with new managers and players, but we have kept on winning. We have won 34 titles, more than Bayern, Porto, Real Madrid and PSG.
Of those 34 titles, 22 have been won under this Board in the last ten years. An unprecedented success rate in this club’s history.
The upheaval of the squad in the last few months should have happened a year earlier, and for that I accepted my part of the responsibility. How? By calling elections for March 2021, the soonest possible in accordance with the statutes to bring a mandate to an end.
And why do the statutes include that option? To guarantee a smooth transition between one presidency and the next. And that is what the club needs, given its huge size, the highly competitive industry in which it operates as well as the context brought about by the health crisis.
We needed to rejuvenate the squad, renew our hopes, change the inertia and dynamic … and that is what we did. It has meant the departure of players who have played essential roles in recent years. I would like to reiterate my gratitude to them for what they gave to the club in their time here. And we have also promoted highly promising youngsters from Barça B and some exceptional talent signed from elsewhere.
As I said last Monday, the decision to hire a new coach in Ronald Koeman was one that the Board had to make, in the same way that we had to approach the summer transfer market. And I am very happy with my decision.
I hope that time will confirm it and people will continue to appreciate the assets that we have renewed and generated over all these years. We are the most loved club in the world, the biggest in terms of fan numbers, and followers on social networks, and our global nature is unquestionable, with offices in Hong Kong and New York.
We wanted to be a benchmark in terms of promoting the role of women in society, with the professionalization of our women’s team as the flagship project, and which is now setting new standards on a national and continental level. And also defending the role of women at our club and in the history of sport.
I am proud of what we have done; making Barça a club that is committed to society, to its country, to children and to the most vulnerable, with a Foundation that is such a huge benchmark in the world of sport and that has played such a fundamental humanitarian part in this pandemic.
We are proud to have worked on and consolidated over these years our social programs to escort the elderly at matches, the game with free entrance for the needy, travel to away matches, and the youth section in the stadium; reviewing the waiting list system and doing so much to combat fraud. And for creating such a body for our supporters clubs as the World Confederation of Penyes, which is made up of 30 federations and has made the supporters movement stronger, more efficient and more global than ever.
I can also assure you that La Masia has been consolidated as a sporting and human training centre, with a program providing care to the more than 600 young athletes in our youth system.
And we are also proud to have so many Barça academies around the world teaching boys and girls to play football our way and in accordance with our values.
The multi-sport nature of our club is more alive than ever. The Social Area has done wonderful work to foster our amateur sports, with more than 1,500 athletes of all ages, with a particular focus on youth training schemes.
Since 2010, we have won 149 different professional titles: 19 in basketball, 52 in handball, 31 in roller hockey, 27 in futsal and 20 in women’s football.
I have sometimes said that our fate was to run Barça at one of the most turbulent times for the country and for the club too. We have had to deal with all kinds of situations, both in a historic political context (where we have always stood beside our institutions, and defended such non-negotiable principles as the right to freedom of expression and the right to decide), and we also had to overcome the death of Tito Vilanova.
We have also watched in disbelief as a Barça president, Sandro Rosell, was so unfairly imprisoned. And have put up with sometimes irrational and cruel insults and criticism from the media, which have often gone way over the line regarding what kinds of things are admissible.
But now it is time to turn the page. I expect everyone will have their opinions and will draw their own conclusions.
I just hope to be able to continue enjoying our Barça, but now from a distance. I wish all the best to the new President and Board, which shall be chosen by the club’s own members. They shall always have my respect and my support whenever they feel they need it.
It is we the members who decide our future. Nobody else. That is part of the Barça identity and what makes us so great, the most loved club in the world. And that was the goal of our Strategic Plan when we began our mandate in 2015: to make Barça the most admired, loved and global sports club in the world. And I believe we have achieved that goal and much more.
I thank all the members, supporters clubs, fans, athletes, technical secretaries, coaching staff, executives, full-time and temporary employees, the members of all commissions, the patrons of the Foundation, and especially my fellow Board members, both past and present.
In short, my thanks to the whole blaugrana family for all the wonderful work and support over all these years since we arrived in 2010 with Sandro Rosell as our president.
I also thank those people for their constructive criticism and encourage them all to continue making this the greatest club in the world.
Thank you very much.
Visca el Barça i Visca Catalunya!