Josep Maria Bartomeu has resigned as Barcelona’s president on last Tuesday rather than wait for the fans voting’s result to force him go leave the club. As it is known, more than 20,000 supporters signed a petition this month for him to be removed as president after growing increasingly upset with his management of the club.
The rest of the board of directors have stepped down alongside Josep Maria Bartomeu, and an election will be scheduled within the next 90 days to appoint a new president.
“It’s a thought-out, serene, informed decision” Josep Maria Bartomeu said in a televised speech. Bartomeu opted to leave rather than ask club members to vote on his future after a debate with local government in Catalonia on whether voting in person would be safe in the current covid-19 pandemic. Victor Font, Joan Laporta and Jordi Roche are some of the candidates expected to run in an election to decide Bartomeu’s successor.
Barcelona’s now former president was elected on a six-year mandate in 2015. However, his popularity has decreased over the past five years, with problems off the pitch eventually dragging down football team’s performances. Last season was Barca’s first year without a trophy since 2007-08, and earlier this month the club announced losses for the 2019-20 season of €97 million, although it was largely a consequence of the financial strains relating to the covid-19 pandemic.
Cracks emerged in the relationships between Bartomeu and the players, particularly between him and Lionel Messi. Bartomeu stood firm when Messi wanted to leave Barca this past summer, with the forward accusing him of lying and then criticizing Bartomeu’s running of the club when he announced that he would stay rather than pursuing legal action to force a move away from Camp Nou.
“The easiest thing after the Champions defeat was to resign, but one had to take decisions amid an unprecedented global crisis,” Bartomeu said, adding that later on, in the wake of the Messi spat, he could not let the club be run by external, temporary figures.
Gerard Pique was also critical of Bartomeu in a recent interview. The defender said it was an “atrocity” that money had been spent by the club on a campaign on social media against current and former players. The scandal became known as Barcagate. But not only Piqué thought Barcelona had to have more respect for his legends.
Despite the discontent among supporters and players, Bartomeu had hoped to see out his mandate, which ran until 2021. An election had been scheduled for March, but as a result of his early departure, it will now be fast-tracked.