While, Bartomeu has been unpopular for some time, fan anger peaked in the aftermath of the team’s 8-2 drubbing at the hands of eventual winner Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of last season’s Champions League. In the wake of that result, the club was rocked further when Messi, who had been with the club since he was 13 and led it to its most-successful period, announced he wanted out.
Bartomeu said it would have been easy to leave then, but that would have left the club in worse shape. He said there were several important issues needing to be resolved, including getting Messi to remain with the club, hiring a new coach and dealing with important player contracts.
“An early resignation at the end of the season would have led the club to an electoral process and a power vacuum, under the direction of an Interim Board, with limited powers, and during a period where it was necessary to make unavoidable and powerful sporting and economic decisions,” said Bartomeu.
The new board will face a number of challenging economic decisions from the get go. They will have to stem losses that rose to more than $100 million last year, while also finding a way to cut the team’s debt, which has also grown rapidly in recent years. At the same time they face the prospect of key sponsorship agreements — including with the team’s principal sponsor Rakuten — expiring. And a $1 billion stadium financing deal with Goldman Sachs to renovate the Camp Nou will need to be revaluated.
All the while they will have to appease a fan base that has become increasingly disillusioned by poor results, poor recruitment and a string of scandals and missteps at the top of the club.
Bartomeu’s announcement that Barcelona had agreed to form a Super League comes after speculation about talks of a breakaway European league featuring the richest teams started anew in recent weeks. The concept, which has been around in one form or another for two decades or more, has been widely lambasted by European soccer’s governing body UEFA and other key stakeholder. Last week UEFA said such a closed league would be “inevitably boring.” UEFA and the top clubs are currently in negotiations over the format of the Champions League from 2024, with the biggest clubs pushing for reforms that would see more games between the top teams.
An early reaction to Bartomeu’s announcement about the plans came from Javier Tebas, who heads Spain’s La Liga. “Unfortunate Bartomeu announcing on his last day participation in a phantom competition which would be the ruin for F.C. Barcelona and confirms their ignorance in the soccer industry,” Tebas said on Twitter. Adding: “Sad end of a president who had successes and lately errors.”