To spread the word, batches of forms have been left at more than 130 office blocks, restaurants and other businesses around Catalonia. The group also posted locations where Barcelona members can pick up a form on a website, and it continues to try to spread the word on social media. So far, Duch and others said, they have gathered 7,500 signatures.
Barcelona declined to comment on the effort, but at least one of Bartomeu’s rivals does not appear to oppose it.
“I thought the defeat in Lisbon was the bottom, but the bottom-bottom was having the best player in the history of the sport, who has been 20 years in the club, wanting to leave after such a defeat and through the back door,” said Victor Font, a technology entrepreneur and one of the front-runners in the race to replace Bartomeu.
Bartomeu can remain in charge until the middle of next year, but, according to Font, changes needs to come much faster than that, not least because the risk of losing Messi next year remains a strong possibility. Messi can speak with potential suitors — Manchester City is among those that have reportedly expressed interest — and even sign a precontract agreement as soon as Jan. 1.
Should Bartomeu’s opponents succeed in ousting the current leadership, elections would have to take place within three months. Whoever is in charge, however, will face a bulging inbox of immediate issues beyond the fate of Messi.
Key sponsorship agreements — including with the team’s principal sponsor Rakuten — will be up for renewal; a contentious and hugely expensive stadium refurbishment will need to be addressed; and, perhaps most important for the team’s fans, the roster will need to be rebuilt. But so will the club’s battered image.
“They have ruined it all, in economic terms, sporting terms and institutionally we have lost all Europe’s respect as a club,” Duch said.