FC Barcelona executives arrested in ‘Barça gate’ investigation

by Deborah Cater
Camp Nou, FC BArcelona
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Since FC Barcelona suffered a historic defeat against Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals of the Champions League (2-8) in August last year, the club’s problems have continued to accumulate. Now, there’s a major scandal.

Catalan police force Mossos d’Esquadra’s investigation into the scandal led to the arrest last Monday of former club president Jose Maria Bartomeu, FC Barcelona general manager Oscar Grau and executive advisor Jaume Masferrer.

After the humiliating Champions League loss was dealt with, a mutual feud ensued between the club players. The unrest eventually led to star player Lionel Messi threatening to leave the club. However, there was discontentment within the club for some time and distrust of chairman Bartomeu grew.

Fake accounts bought for over a million euros

The trouble started months before. On February 17, 2020 radio station SER Catalunya reported FC Barcelona had hired the company I3 Ventures to shine a positive light on then club president Josep Maria Bartomeu. The company created fake social media accounts discrediting members of the club who opposed policies. Evidence includes at least six Facebook and dozens of Twitter accounts with a large number of followers criticising journalists, businessmen, former executives and even players like Messi and Piqué.

When it came to light that Bartomeu and a number of other board members paid more than one million euros in return, it was officially a crime. They divided the amount paid to I3 Ventures into several smaller amounts so as not to arouse suspicion within the club. A few days later, in an extraordinary meeting, the club suspended Bartomeu’s advisor Jaume Masferrer and terminated the contract with I3 Ventures with immediate effect. From that moment on, the genie was out of the bottle at the Camp Nou offices.

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External investigation

At the beginning of April, six more board members were fired. They included presidential candidate Emili Rousaud, treasurer Enrique Tombas, commercial manager Josep Pont, chairman of Barça B Silvio Elías, secretary and chairman of the control committee Maria Teixidor and member of the Compliance Committee Jordi Calsamiglia.

An external investigation followed, carried out by accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers. That led to an initial investigation by the Catalan Mossos d’Esquadra at the end of June.

Situation became untenable

The police investigation took place at the same time as the dramatic Champions Leage defeat to Bayern Munich. The already irritated Lionel Messi saw this as an excellent opportunity to force a departure from the club. He planned to use a clause that allowed him to unilaterally terminate his contract. In the end, Messi completed his contract with Barça. However, his relationship with Bartomeu had cooled off and the situation became untenable.

On October 28, Bartomeu, who has since been attacked from all sides, announced his departure from the club. According to him, his departure was the result of an unapproved club budget.

7th March – announcement of new Chairman

One of the first actions taken by the Board of Directors was the definitive and immediate resignation of Jaume Masferrer. The new FC Barcelona Chairman will be announced on March 7th. The candidates are Joan Laporta, Víctor Font and Toni Freixa.

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