No fans in the stands, which means no home matches.
There is a global pandemic, restricting travel and the kinds of gatherings that would have made things so much easier.
And still, 20,687.
No media attention of the sort that would have helped, as both major Barça-centric dailies were quiet on the matter, so socis got to work, building grassroots into a forest of dissent.
That is the number of socis who signed pieces of paper, official forms signalling their assent to a censure motion against current FC Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu. For those of you inclined to do math, in the 2015 election that kicked off a mandate that has been more like a paean to the failure of human management, Bartomeu tallied 25,823 votes. And this was during normal times, when the world could move hither and yon, unmasked, unafraid and without a care in the world.
If you’re a normal head of an enterprise, you might look at the astonishing numbers, at one soci who drove around Catalunya to collect signatures, at the two presidential candidates, rivals, who put aside their electoral enmity to unite against your continued presence, and resign. The writing on the wall, or in this case wee slips of paper, has never been more clear. A group of committed socis performed a task that most thought was impossible, devoted to one thing: seeing your back. How any president can linger after that is beyond me, for the simple reason that the idea of a mandate goes out the window at a time such as this.
The number of affirmative votes required to kick start the censure process was 16,700. As the day drew late on Wednesday, there was doubt. But as the packets of papeletas came streaming in, it became clearer and clearer that the numbers were going to be met. That the number is so high is as clear and pure a signal as a giant neon exit sign.
The rest of the process will play out now, beginning with challenges to the votes. Some, probably many, will be thrown out for technical reasons. “He colored outside the lines! out!” But with a cushion of more than 4,000 “yes” votes, the will of the socis should survive any such efforts at thwarting them. Then comes the election itself, to be called at a period before the already scheduled ones in March. What then has to happen is two thirds of voting socis, with a minimum turnout of 10 percent of all socios (presently around 155,000), must vote to remove Bartomeu and his board from office.
The last censure motion that found its way to a vote was against Joan Laporta in 2008. He survived, as “only” 60 percent of socis voted for his exit. That he went on to tap Pep Guardiola and begin a process that resulted in one of the greatest footballing sides in history is not going to repeat itself here, should Bartomeu escape the sack. In 1998, Lluis Nunez faced censure via a group led by Joan Laporta, during a reign so crappy the team was winning Liga titles and socis still took his preidency to a censure vote.
Neither of them has been as graceless, as deeply inept as Bartomeu. His reign is so dire that Liooel Messi, in taking to video to explain why he wanted out of the club, laid waste to a president and his board. No plan, no project, this all sucks and I want out. It’s safe to say that had this censure motion kicked into life without Messi bombazos, it almost certainly would have suffered the same fate as recent efforts. The football team has been humiliated before in Champions League. Twice before the 8-2 pummelling, in fact. Sins of the board were numerous, and every bit as true before a diminutive Argentine icon stared, cold-eyed, into the camera and indicted those who have been running the club, laying waste to everything good except the sponsorship agreements.
Time and again this space has chronicled the abysmal human mismanagement of this board. It took Messi to bring it vibrant, hard-faced life. And when Messi is against you, you can’t win. So resign. It isn’t even a question of saving face. There is no face left to save. It isn’t a matter of saving yourself. That ship has sailed. The only reason to stay on, to set feet and ignore the will of the people, is the hope that enough people will vote no to the motion, once the elections are held. It can even be said that there is uncertainty. After all, there wasn’t a signature gathering campaign to see who was satisfied with the club’s board, right? So they can hold out hope that there are enough people that the 66.6 percent of votes against required will fall short.
But it shouldn’t come down to hope. A president who loves the club, who is truly conscious of the power of a mandate and what it must have taken for members to shake the foundations of that mandate, should do the right thing and resign. It’s what enough people want that given the current conditions, there shouldn’t even be a question of continuing. Sandro Rosell, beset by the wonderful soci Jordi Cases and his lawsuit, resigned. Yes, even Sandro Rosell, who would probably have survived a censure vote. The percentage is daunting. But a mandate requires the will of the people, something that can also be taken away — something that has been taken away. Socis want you gone, the football team’s captain and talisman want to see the back of you.
This is no longer about a president or a mandate. It’s about doing the right thing for the good of the entity you purport to love. Like any difficult decision that is for the greater good, the hardest part is making the decision. The rest is easy.