Josep María Bartomeu’s last act as the president of Barcelona was to announce the club’s participation in a European Super League.
Bartomeu revealed that Barça had signed up to the proposal during a 35 minute speech to confirm his resignation on Tuesday night. That involvement is subject to ratification and approval at a members’ assembly. The Catalan club have also agreed to a new format in the Fifa-led Club World Cup.
Last week, it was revealed that plans for a lucrative breakaway pan-European league involving top English clubs that would supersede the Champions League had been revived, with the banking giant JP Morgan being asked to seek financing for a new competition. The league would potentially comprise 18 teams – including five English sides and teams from Spain, Italy, Germany and France – and have no promotion and relegation, according to proposals reported first by the Spanish outlet Vozpopuli and by Sky News. Real Madrid, advised by the investment company Key Capital, are said to be behind a plan for a European Super League, first reported by Der Spiegel in 2018.
“I can announce some extraordinary news,” said Bartomeu. “Yesterday we accepted a proposal to participate in a future European Super League, which would guarantee the future financial sustainability of the club. And we’ve accepted the future CWC format.”
His statement was later criticised by La Liga president Javier Tebas, who described plans for a European Super League as “weak and imaginary” and declared it would bring ruin to clubs.
“Unfortunate @jmbartomeu statement on his last day about @fcbarcelona joining a weak and imaginary competition which would be their ruin,” he wrote. “It confirms his ignorance about the football industry. Sad end for a president with successes and lately many mistakes.”
Unfortunate @jmbartomeu statement on his last day about @fcbarcelona joining a weak and imaginary competition which would be their ruin. It confirms his ignorance about the football industry. Sad end for a president with successes and lately many mistakeshttps://t.co/byyci9cl8h
— Javier Tebas Medrano (@Tebasjavier) October 27, 2020
Bartomeu dropped the bombshell on the night he announced his resignation as president of Barcelona, taking his entire board of directors with him. He gave no more details and nor did he field questions during his appearance, which was a long valedictory speech with an air of victimhood and self justification in which he complained about much of the criticism to which he had been subjected.
Under increasing pressure in recent months, yet seemingly determined to cling on to power despite the on-going crisis at the club, the decision to walk away en masse was finally agreed during a board meeting on Tuesday evening night. Bartomeu then denied that he had tried to cling onto power insisting that it would have been easy to walk away after the 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich but that he could not leave the club in the hands of an interim administration at a time of transition and economic crisis. That included, he added, having to resolve the future of Lionel Messi.
Bartomeu will not now face the vote of no confidence brought against him by club members and will leave with immediate effect. Indeed, the decision to resign was reached after the Catalan government refused to postpone the no-confidence motion until mid-November as the board had proposed. Bartomeu accused the Generalitat of “irresponsibility” in not allowing them the time to prepare special measures due to the pandemic and claimed that they had effectively been forced to resign in order to honour the club’s own statues.
An interim board led by Carles Tusquets, an economics lecturer at Barcelona University, will take over and prepare for presidential elections. Bartomeu and his board may face civil action holding them personally liable for the budgetary shortfall over the period of his administration since 2014.
On Monday Bartomeu had insisted: “there is no reason to present [my] resignation”, adding: “it is not a good idea to leave the club in the hands of an administrator”. He always knew though that scenario was the likely outcome of the vote of no-confidence. Almost 20,000 members’ signatures had been gathered to force a referendum which Bartomeu had no realistic prospect of surviving, despite only needing a third of the vote.
Bartomeu leaves as arguably the least popular president in Barcelona’s history, facing a crisis at almost every level at the Camp Nou and a breakdown in relations between the boardroom and the dressing room. In the summer, he blocked the departure of Lionel Messi who then publicly admitted that he had only stayed to avoid ending up in court with the club. In the interview in which he announced he was staying, the Argentinian insisted: “there has been no project or anything for a long time.”
Now, seven weeks after Messi was forced to remain, Bartomeu and his board have gone. He leaves behind a decision that changes the landscape not just at his club but across the continent, a legacy that means European football may never be the same again.