Barca chief quits to avoid removal

Rest of board also leave as fans revolt over media scandal, Messi stand-off and form drop

Then Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu in March. He backed the club joining the much-criticised European Super League.
Then Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu in March. He backed the club joining the much-criticised European Super League. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BARCELONA • Josep Maria Bartomeu, the embattled president of Barcelona, announced his resignation on Tuesday, bringing an abrupt end to a six-year tenure in which he had taken power almost by accident, nearly driven away the best player in the club's history and provoked a recall effort that many expected to lead to his ouster as soon as next month.

The entire board of the La Liga giants resigned along with Bartomeu, who said he was stepping down to spare the club's tens of thousands of members from having to vote in a referendum on his leadership during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We cannot and do not want to be in the position of having to choose between the protection of health and the exercise of the right to vote. And that is why we have made the decision not to call the vote and to resign immediately from our duties," a sombre-looking Bartomeu said in a late night speech broadcast on the club's website.

While announcing his resignation, the Catalan also made the bombshell claim that on Monday, he had agreed with the leaders of what he described as Europe's other "big clubs" to participate in a European "super league", a closed competition that has been much discussed in recent years, but one that faces a number of political, sporting and economic hurdles if it is to become reality.

A final decision whether or not to participate in such a competition would face a vote of Barcelona's members, he added.

In response, La Liga president Javier Tebas, an avowed critic of the plans to shake up European football, said that Bartomeu's departing comments confirmed his "ignorance" about football and described the new proposed league as "a weak and imaginary competition".

"Sad end for a president with successes and lately, many mistakes," he tweeted.

Bartomeu's departure came only weeks after the fan-owned club's members had collected the thousands of signatures required to forced a vote on the leadership.

Many of them blame him for leading the club into the biggest crisis in its modern history - he oversaw a scandal after employing a social media firm that went on to attack the players online, culminating in the resignation of six board members in April and Barca's first trophy-less season in 12 years last term.

He was also held responsible for nearly driving away captain Lionel Messi, who briefly announced his intention to depart in late August, only to reverse his plan weeks later.

The star Argentina forward had criticised Barca's leadership last season and grumbled about the direction of the club after a five-year Champions League drought.

In announcing his decision to remain at the Nou Camp last month, though, Messi blamed Bartomeu personally for breaking his word to him, saying he had reneged on a promise to let him leave at the end of last season.

An interim board of directors has been put in place and while the next elections have been scheduled for March, they are now expected to be fast tracked.

Among those in contention to be the new president include Victor Font, Joan Laporta and Jordi Roche.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2020, with the headline Barca chief quits to avoid removal. Subscribe