March 7 is a crucial date for the Spanish football club FC Barcelona. And this time not on the football field, but in the voting box. It is the day of the presidential election. Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Freixa face three completely different candidates who will determine the future of the mythical football club in the coming years.
Football superpower FC Barcelona is not doing well. In the league they are only in fourth place, nine points behind leader Atlético Madrid. It has been thirteen years since the club finished outside the top two in La Liga. In addition, it recently swallowed a painful defeat in both the Copa del Rey (2-0 against Sevilla) and in the Champions League (1-4 against PSG), where Barça faces two very difficult return matches.
Dissatisfied Messi and debt mountain
But it is by no means quiet next to the field. This summer, there was the whole scare with star player Lionel Messi who wanted to leave. For the good peace – and the exuberant wages – the Argentinian godchild finally decided to stay another year.
In addition, FC Barcelona also carries a debt of about 1.2 billion euros. This debt can largely be seen from a ‘present’ from Josep Maria Bartomeu, the previous chairman who resigned at the end of October 2020 after persistent criticism.
Joan Laporta, Toni Freixa or Victor Font
And so it is time for a new wind at the Blaugrana, or not quite? Joan Laporta, for example, was president from 2003 to 2010 until he fell out of favor due to his dictatorial tendencies within the club’s board. In addition, it was leaked that his family had close ties to dictator Francisco Franco, something difficult to digest within the Catalan club.
Toni Freixa started as a board member at Barcelona under Laporta, but will also stay on board with his successors and enemies Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu. Victor Font is somewhat of an outsider because as a businessman he has never been directly involved with the club.
What stands out most among the gentlemen, however, is their different view of the enormous debt that FC Barcelona carries. In an interview with the BBC Font the only one who dares to use the word bankruptcy. “Technically we are. We owe a lot of money and a lot of it is short-term debt, ”he says.
Laporta and Freixa put the financial situation into perspective by comparing them with other clubs or Barcelona itself in the past. Their miracle solution is to “control spending, restructure debt and generate new income”.
Foreign investors or socios?
It seems almost impossible that an institution like FC Barcelona will really go bankrupt. Still, the club is probably waiting for a few lean years in terms of results. Another option to get out of the financial malaise is to look for external investors.
Barça is already one of the few football clubs in the world, namely in the hands of the fans. Just over 150,000 socios together are the main shareholder of the club. They all pay EUR 144 annually for this. It is therefore those socios who have the right to vote in the presidential elections.
Even thinking about hitting that system equates to sacrilege for most fans at Camp Nou. Both Joan Laporta and Toni Freixa are therefore strong opponents of selling part of FC Barcelona’s shares.
Victor Font, on the other hand, sees that as a solution. “Our project believes it is a logical concept to sell 49 percent of certain assets we have in exchange for much-needed funds,” he explains to the BBC. “Bringing in strategic partners to help us develop different parts of the business with a plan to reach millions of fans around the world can bring capital into the club. It makes sense and we have been working on similar ideas in recent years. ”
Font emphasizes that he certainly does not see this as a quick, hasty way to close Barcelona’s financial well.
Joan Laporta favorite
But in the end, it will be the socios who decide who will be the next FC Barcelona president. Almost all polls expect that they will vote for Joan Laporta en masse.