Tomorrow the polls open in the FC Barcelona elections and we here at BFB are not unaware of this. So we teamed up to bring you the most definitive guide to the elections you’ll find anywhere on earth. And also Pluto.
Levon: Why I’d vote for Laporta
In a perfect world, Benedito might get my vote. He seems responsible, he has a decent program and we would get rid of the he says she says between the Roselistas and Laportistas. In other words, he represents a clean break. He also seems less dishonest than the other candidates, but this is possibly because he hasn’t been in a position to lie to us as often. Alas, prognosis shows that voting for Benedito, Agusti will make about as much difference to the final results as voting for Isaiah would. So the choice is, effectively, between Josep Bartomeu and Joan Laporta. I’m sorry to say that my vote would be more of an anti-vote than a pro-vote.
Barto has done a number of good things during his year and a half at the club.
- He appointed Luis Enrique. To many this was a no-brainer, but still.
- He supported the coach while many of the media and public were calling for his head during the first half of the season.
- He won the treble.
- He has, for the most part, been less outwardly conflictive than Sandro Rosell.
- He has tread the fine but difficult line very well between representing Catalunya while at the same time avoiding to steer the club too deep into the independista quagmire.
However, counting against him are:
- He was vice-president (and president of sports) when the club signed young, foreign players for the academy in direct circumvention of FIFA rules.
- As president, his ridiculous la Masía no es toca strategy was disastrous for the club’s image and the young players involved, and was possibly counterproductive as the club got hit with a one year transfer ban.
- Barça B was relegated on his watch and no academy player has broken through since 2009/2010. For a detailed article about the negligence of the Masía during the last five years, there is an excellent article by Rafael Hernández on Grup14.com here. It bears repeating that for the duration of Rosell’s presidency, Bartomeu was president of sports.
- He is involved in an ongoing court case that might see him land a three-year jail sentence during the next presidential mandate.
- Qatar. I agree with Laporta and Benedito that there are probably other sponsors out there that will give us the same amount of money or more from sponsorship deals. As a matter of fact, Benedito has stated that if (when) he loses the campaign, he will hand the elected president four or five companies with which he has held advanced talks that are willing to offer more money than the current deal. For Bartomeu to insist that he has investigated the market (through a third party) and that there are no better deals available rings false and, even worse, smells of corruption. Somewhere, someone is making money off of this and, besides the fact that having the very controversial 2022 World Cup host on the front of our shirt does us no good, to entrust these people with a 600 million dollar project of renovating the stadium is madness.
These last five reasons are sufficient for me to vote for the main alternative. Laporta has his faults and I wish he assumed them instead of his current holier-than-thou approach, which rubs me wrong, but the deal breakers for me are that we’ll get rid of Qatar as soon as legally possible and that the Masía will be better run. At a very unscientific level, I simply distrust Laporta less than Bartomeu. Besides, when has a club advised by Cruijff ever gone wrong?
Kxevin: Why I’d vote for Benedito
As Public Enemy said in the intro to “Whole Lotta Love Goin’ On in the Middle of Hell,” “If you don’t stand up for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
It’s the biggest reason that my presidential vote would go to Agusti Benedito. Principles count for a lot, and I am a huge proponent of them. Laporta and Bartomeu represent two different piles of crap that differ only in size and potential shoe damage. People say that Bartomeu is far worse than Laporta, and that might be true. But it is also important that socis allow themselves to embrace a viable third option, something that, as many of you know, I have long advocated for.
This is an extremely important election for the club’s future, and future direction. Some believe, in a hyperbolic rapture, that the club will be destroyed if Bartomeu wins. I don’t share that sentiment even as I worry quite deeply about what giving him a mandate and six years will do to the club that I love.
But I have similar concerns, though not as cold sweat-inducing, about giving Laporta a mandate and 6 years.
Laporta’s presidency stands a strong possibility of being like the opening scene in the movie “The Hangover.” Broken glass, passed-out naked people, empty cava bottles, phones off the hook and a chicken running around. It’s a mess, but housekeeping can clean it up.
Bartomeu’s presidency has the potential to look like the aftermath of the Sack of Troy, to do more significant harm to the club, particularly on the fiscal side of things. It would take housekeeping a lot longer to clean that up, potentially defining the direction of future administrations in everything from player sales to the youth system.
Prima facie that would seen to argue in favor of Laporta over Bartomeu, and it would were it not for that third option. But it just isn’t that easy. It never is. Jimmy Burns, in an excellent recent blog post, makes a case for abstention. He isn’t going to vote in the election for reasons very clearly stated.
The other problem is The Fear, that a non-vote or vote for someone other than Laporta means a vote for Bartomeu. But the thing about principles, about standing for something, is that fear and other mitigating factors shouldn’t matter. You should look at the three candidates and decide, for yourself, who is best or at absolute worst, who would do the least harm.
It has been said of Benedito that he hasn’t really done or said anything, that there are too many questions about his platform and plans for the direction of the club. And by singling him out for that criticism, pundits ignore the fact that none of the other candidates really have, either. Freixa has been the closest to laying out a real plan. But they are all too busy explaining why their opponents are evil. And that’s a problem even as it is a typical election campaign, no matter the elective office or location of the efforts.
Both Bartomeu and Laporta are, in effect, running on the past, on “Don’t you want more victory parades?” Laporta is spiking his retro libation with liberal doses of “Cruijff,” “Guardiola” and “values”, the last being most interesting as a question about values would be a legit ask of a man who paid investigators to spy on club and team members.
Is the devil you know always the best choice?
Bartomeu is running a very intelligent race, acting presidential as an incumbent is wont to do. He isn’t bothering to sling mud at or with the other candidates because that isn’t what the front runner does. What a legit front runner should do is sail serenely on through an election that will reach an inevitable, logical conclusion.
I decided to endorse Benedito before the Tuesday candidates’ debate, in which I thought he mishandled things while Bartomeu handled them exactly right, coming out as a winner of sorts even as he was attacked from all sides, with opponents landing significant blows. Bartomeu didn’t win the debate per se, but he did what he had to do which was look like the front-runner (his attacking opponents helped him there), and not screw up.
The other candidates erred in attacking Bartomeu in an effort to sway voters by landing haymakers, rather than convincing them by acting presidential, like an equal to Bartomeu. There was a moment of weakness when Bartomeu said that he was being prosecuted for actions of the club, in an attempt to stave off the baying hounds. Don’t throw the club under the bus. The president is the club. It’s an important distinction.
To say that Bartomeu’s candidacy isn’t distressing would be foolish. He was part of a board that has a number of shady acts in its past. Is he the board? Good question. Has he distanced himself from that board and the sins of it? Another good question. Here’s another one: If he isn’t that board, why did he stay?
“Although the bylaws specify that I continue as president after the resignation of Sandro Rosell, I am not comfortable with the decisions of the board that I was a part of, nor do I believe that a president should serve without the blessing of his electorate.” Bang.
When Sandro Rosell was bothered by the actions of Joan Laporta, he resigned from that board as a sign of protest, in the belief that though he could stay and work from within, that might imply agreement with that president’s direction and his actions. Bartomeu and Freixa have the same problem, of being unable to criticize or distance themselves from the actions of their predecessors, because they were part of parcel of those actions.
But sitting tight worked for Bartomeu. He became president, presided over a treble and looks in the catbird’s seat. But if he stands for something different than Rosell, what is it? No idea. If it is more of the same, no soci should be in favor of that direction. But there is the uncertainty. Bartomeu hasn’t done anything wrong or bad during his tenure, and the team has accomplished good things. People scoff at him taking some credit for the treble, but it’s every bit as valid as Laporta taking credit for the good that happened under his watch. Like it or not, there is the very real possibility that Bartomeu might not be a horrible president, even as it is easy to cast him as Rosell Jr.
The shirt will return to tradition next season, and Bartomeu is discussing sponsors that are not Qatar, even as it disappoints me that he is discussing any sponsor at all. Has he learned from the errors of the past? Another excellent question. I’m unwilling to risk the future of the club that I love on the answer to that one being “No.”
Laporta stands around whispering about the ghosts of the past: Cruijff, La Masia, Guardiola. He understands that nostalgia is a powerful lure, even as it distracts from talking about what you are going to do in the future. He talks about returning UNICEF to the shirt front, ignoring the speculation presented by many that UNICEF was just a placeholder for a paid sponsor, that Laporta was testing the waters rather than being the Great Humanitarian. Unknowable.
Laporta and Bartomeu are risky choices for rather different, yet similar reasons. Benedito is something of an independent choice, a devil we don’t know who is, to my view, worth a punt.
Benedito isn’t linked to the Rosell board in any way, and his ties to Laporta are tenuous, verging on ephemeral. His principles led him to resign the Laporta board in 2009. His approach and platform, his very demeanor speak of seny, that Catalan quality that implies calm and logic. He loves the club and what it stands for, and has ideas for a strong future. He wants the club to be for everyone, and would lift the membership restrictions that exist. This is huge because although Barça is a Catalan institution, it wants to be a global club. So act like one, and stop using restrictive policies in an attempt to preserve a mandate. Rosell did it, and Bartomeu shows no sign of finding it at all distasteful. That’s wrong.
Yes, it disappoints me that Benedito bandies around names such as Monchi and Veratti when it’s abundantly clear that neither will be coming to the club should he win. That is a part of campaigning that I would have preferred he stuck to the high road on. Benedito has been asking the right questions, not just slinging mud. He also didn’t help his cause by “unveiling” a shirt sponsor, an energy drink company that sounds like a half-baked vanity project at best. Appearing desperate and gullible is not something the third-place candidate needs in a race with a large number of potential undecideds.
My principles and my love for the club dictate that I cast my vote for president with a man who I believe would be able to steer the club into a healthy, viable future, irrespective of how viable that person’s chances are of winning. I don’t want someone telling me a new stadium project is going to cost 600m and will pay for itself within 5 years when logically we know that can’t be true. I don’t want lies about austerity that get kicked in the teeth by mega signings and another 60m+ transfer summer. I don’t want administrative errors.
I also don’t want someone who thinks that spying on club and team personnel is okay, and I don’t want Great Uzbek Adventures, even if they only tarnish the president. The president is, after all, leader of the club. Conservative socis are also rightly distressed by some of Laporta’s comments that attempt to link Barça with the Catalan independence movement. Yes, the club is Catalan and a Catalan institution. It wears the flag proudly. But don’t use the movement as an electioneering tool. That isn’t right.
Curiously, the best campaign has been run by Toni Freixa but his litany of acts are such that I could never, ever be comfortable with my vote going to him.
Benedito, when asked if he could work with Laporta, said no because “I don’t trust him.” That is ultimately my biggest difficulty with King Joan. My biggest difficulty with Bartomeu is that I fear what might happen to the club. Benedito is an unknown with excellent ideas. As the club takes a leap into the unknown, excellent ideas are a top-notch foundation upon which to build.
blitzen: Why I’d vote for Laporta
I wrestled with this one, I really did. I’m not a fan of strategic voting, and all other things being equal I would cast my vote for Benedito. That is, if I had one, which I don’t as I’m not a member. I was initially going to write in support of Benedito as I truly believe he is the best candidate still standing. I thought, since I can’t actually cast a vote I may as well support the man I actually think would make the best president for the club. Benedito comes across as rational, trustworthy, and fiscally responsible. He would revisit the plans for the new stadium, end the club’s relationship with Qatar, open up membership to all, revitalize La Masia, and welcome back Cruijff’s philosophy and input to the club. He’s also avoided throwing around the names of players he would like to bring to the club, which I approve of (yes, he’s mentioned Verratti once or twice, but not in what I would consider a serious way). And if he would still put a big corporate sponsor on the front of the shirt, well, I’m less militant about that than some. As long as it’s not a company in direct opposition to the values that the club claims to represent, I can live with that.
However. I then had to think about what I would do if I could actually vote, and whether it would make sense to vote for the best candidate who is certain to lose rather than the least worst best candidate who has an excellent chance of winning. Benedito’s platform is good, but does he have the necessary business acumen and contacts? His recent proposition for a new shirt sponsor left me with a LOT of questions on that score. How important is it to me to get the club out of the hands of Bartomeu and his cronies before they can damage it any further, and how much am I willing to sacrifice for that to happen? Levon has already listed many of the crimes, both moral and literal, of which Barto and his board are guilty, to which I would add:
- Threatening to expel and sue a socio for asking questions about the Neymar transfer. (Toni Freixa is to blame for this one too, in case you were thinking of voting for him.)
- Mistreating and disrespecting loyal employees of the club, including Zubizarreta, who was made the fall guy over the FIFA transfer ban even though the entire board had the knowledge and responsibility for that debacle. And let’s not even get into the whole Abidal debacle.
- Voting to launch a punitive lawsuit against the previous board which was motivated solely by personal vindictiveness on the part of Rosell and was based on questioable accounting in the first place.
- And of course, failing to call an election at the first opportunity after Rosell resigned, which in my opinion should have been done at the end of last season. Initially Bartomeu planned to continue until the summer of 2016 despite not actually having a mandate, and it was only under pressure from the board (his own board!) that he condescended to call the election for this summer instead. The arrogance of his attitude has been amply illustrated in his demeanour during this campaign *even after he formally relinquished the position*, as he has continued to make announcements on behalf of the club and act in almost every other way as though he is still the acting president.
So, yes. My vote would be more anti-Bartomeu than pro-Laporta. Laporta has the best chance of getting Bartomeu out, but he comes with his own set of problems. He’s likeable, but he has his own brand of arrogance and sleaziness. I haven’t forgotten his fiscal misdemeanours and questionable signings. He has more than a whiff about him of the old boy/backroom/gladhanding politician. But I also believe that he genuinely wants what is best for the club, and he has very good people around him. Enric Masip, especially, is someone I trust and respect and who I would have liked to see run on his own merits. He will bring back Alexanko to fix the damage that has been done to the youth system and plug the leaking of young talents to other clubs. Eric Abidal may be untested as a sporting director, but he will have support staff and will surely bring the sort of intelligence and fair dealing to the position that has sorely been lacking (sorry, Zubi). Laporta is saying all the right things about cleaning up the image of the club and getting back to its core values. Cruijff has publically come on board and endorsed him. Many of the players and Lucho himself already have a good relationship with him. Selling Messi would never cross his mind.
Laporta’s not a perfect choice, but neither is Benedito. I have to hope that Laporta has learned from his previous mistakes, and I believe that he would put the best interests of the club first. He’s also the most realistic option to get rid of the current cancerous board. If only he would shut up about Pogba. So pour yourself a glass of cava and vote for Laporta. It’s the least worst most OK thing to do.
Isaiah: Don’t make me decide!
I swore when this whole election process began that I’d find the best candidate and stump for him. I’d write a brilliant essay, I told myself, that would convince the world to vote for him and make him president of this club I love. I’m a voting member of FC Barcelona, so despite the fact that I won’t be able to vote in Saturday’s election thanks to geographical differences between myself and the Camp Nou, I’m theoretically capable of doing so if someone stumps for my airfare to and from the city. No takers? Oh well. Maybe next time, if there’s a real reason to care.
Because these guys are basically the same except one likes Qatar on the shirt and the rest have taken the politically expedient route against it, the only way to really tell them apart is to be as frivolous as they are. So let’s do that. Let’s get stupid.
Round 1: Face off!
Yeah sure, he’d win the “looks my like Uncle—the one I actually like” category hands down, but that’s Benedito’s official candidate picture and he can’t even look at the camera. What better stuff do you have to look at right then? Everyone else: not afraid to look forward. Agusti? Dammit, man, whatever is going on over there to the photographer’s right, it can wait like literally 2 seconds. But I do like that he’s the only one not wearing a blaugrana tie that looks like it came from the “Candidate” section of the Botiga. So I guess there’s that.
The rest of you don’t get off that easily, though. Oh no. I see you, Barto, with your leaning back like you’ve already won. You haven’t—don’t interrupt me, Barto, with your smug grin. And don’t laugh, Laporta, you’re clearly completely dead inside, that vacant stare is more Walking Dead than electable. Yikes. His eyes follow you around the room. Even when your monitor is off.
Round Winner: Freixa, because he looks kind of professorial and like he took this whole picture thing seriously. Runner up: Benedito, because ties and looking like my uncle are okay, I guess.
Round 2: Campaign logos!
Just look at the logos and slogans here.
- Good for Barça
- For Barça
- We Know What’s at Stake
- Now is the Time, Let’s Do it Together!
Are you kidding me? Please tell me that Laporta spent like a kajillion euros to hire an advertising firm to design PEL BARCA. My 2 year old would scoff at that logo. Yeah, we’re pretty clear on what you’re running for, buddy, maybe have it say like, I dunno, literally anything else? Why not just put it in Comic Sans or even Wingdings. Definitely do it in Wingdings. It’s the worst logo ever.
Freixa was doing so well, but what the crap are you talking about here? Sabem a Que Juguem? Very inspired, nice blaugrana background too. I mean, good job beating Laporta and all…Next.
And now Bartomeu, who seems like he hired the guy who did Roger Federer’s snazzy logo, but forgot to pay him. Yes, a 3 also looks like a B. That is fantastic. A 3 is how many trophies that were won this year and your name begins with a B and you said Bo Pel Barça which also begins with a B that could look like a 3! You thought of everything!!!!11!
Round Winner: Benedito, by default.
Round 3: Awkward promises!
Laporta: “I’ll bring back happiness.” K.
Benedito: “I’ve lined up a shirt sponsor worth 70-80 million euros a year!” Does it exist yet? Ha ha ha. What a question! You’re such a funny guy, but no, no it doesn’t.
Bartomeu: “I would do the same contract for Neymar again because Barcelona did nothing wrong.” Really? Really really?
Freixa: “We currently don’t have enough spontaneous chants [at the stadium]. We will create new songs…just like in Sevilla!” Yes, spontaneous chanting at synchronized times. That should be splendid.
Winner: Oh screw this, just vote for Joan, what could go wrong?