Barcelona to shine light on financial meltdown under Bartomeu
Barcelona president Joan Laporta will present the results of a club investigation into financial mismanagement under the previous board on Tuesday, with former president Josep Maria Bartomeu expected to be in the firing line.
The findings of the ‘forensic report’ prompted the prosecutor’s office in Barcelona to launch an investigation on Friday into “economic crimes”, a source told AFP, after the club filed a complaint last week.
Barcelona’s report was initiated after the club’s general director, Ferran Reverter, announced the results of an internal audit in October.
Reverter said the club was “technically bankrupt” when Laporta took over as president in March 2021 and that Bartomeu’s regime had been “disastrous”.
The audit uncovered total club debts of 1.35 billion euros.
“There were signs that we had to investigate further and for this reason we will do a forensic report,” Reverter said in October.
“If any irregularities are found, the club would pass it on to the legal department to take the appropriate measures,” he added.
The report focuses on various financial issues, including money paid to agents and the spreading of fees over numerous contracts, allegedly to avoid exceeding spending limits.
Barcelona also spent eye-watering sums on transfers under Bartomeu, with expensive signings such as Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann.
“We have the feeling that when we signed players, it was not part of the plan to see if we could afford them,” Reverter said. “The same night they signed Griezmann they realised there was not enough money to do it.”
Bartomeu has defended his time as president, rejecting the figures presented by the new board while blaming losses on the crisis caused by the pandemic.
Barcelona closed the 2020/2021 financial year with losses of 481 million euros (565.4 million dollars). This season they hope to post a small profit of 5 million euros (5.8 million dollars).
“Our management was serious and responsible,” Bartomeu said in an interview with Barcelona newspaper Mundo Deportivo in October.
Bartomeu appeared in court in March and was released pending corruption charges, after police carried out raids at five locations around Barcelona, including the offices at Camp Nou.
More than 200,000 Barcelona members had signed a petition to have Bartomeu removed as president but Bartomeu resigned in October 2020, before a vote of no confidence could take place.
He fell out publicly with Lionel Messi, who left last summer and joined Paris Saint-Germain when the club could not afford to extend his contract.
The team suffered a dramatic decline on the pitch and they are still recovering. Barca sit fifth in La Liga and failed to qualify for this season’s Champions League last 16.
Bartomeu also oversaw numerous political controversies, including the ‘Barcagate’ scandal, which saw a company allegedly hired to smear opponents of the board on social media, with figures like Messi, Gerard Pique and current coach Xavi Hernandez among those targeted.