Of Politics and Football: The 2010 Barça Elections (pt 1)

I am a firm believer that nothing takes place in this world within a vacuum and football is obviously no exception. This fact means that our beloved sport, whose fascination starts on the pitch, is deeply involved in the most unfortunate of things: politics. Because of the cultural and social meaning of the game, it has attracted not just the lovers of the sport, but also the sinister evil of politicians. And yet it’s still fascinating, still alluring, and still important. So we have to cover the politics here on this blog once every couple of years–what a terrible life I lead, no?

The Barça presidential elections take place on Sunday June 13, just 6 days from now, and will decide, really, what the next several years will be like. So who are the official candidates? In order to become one, you have to get a certain number of signatures from members (the number varies per election, if I’m not mistaken and this year it 2,095) and only 4 of the pre-candidates mentioned in my previous election post were able to meet that criteria:

  1. Agustí Benedito
  2. Jaume Ferrer
  3. Marc Ingla
  4. Sandro Rosell

This means that Santiago Salvat, Jaume Guixa and Alexis Plaza all failed to make the cut. I’ve put the candidates in alphabetical order and will go through them in that same order, starting today with the Benedito and covering the others tomorow (that is a time-constraint issue, not a statement of preference).

Also, please note that the pictures I’ve included of them were selected from as neutral a point-of-view as I could get so that no candidate came off looking worse than the others. This is me attempting to be objective about this and report the straight facts, but as with all things, subjectivity will creep in and my own opinions will form part of what’s being said, so please forgive anything that sounds tainted with opinion and please point out things I missed in the comments. I’m also not attempting to replace Pep’s Barcelona Elections blog, which is doing a fantastic job of keeping the English-speaking world informed of what’s going on in Electionville, Spain, but I am attempting to compliment that site with my own take (see how subjectivity already creeps in? Even facts can be subjective at some level).

Agustí Benedito i Benet. Born June 22, 1964 in Barcelona. Official site.

Benedito is a Catalan businessman in the automotive industry, soci numer 34,235, and was one of the founding members of Elefant Blau in 1997, the group that effectively ended Josep Lluís Núñez’s tenure as FCB president (1978-2000). It should be noted here that the main founders of Elefant Blau were Joan Laporta and Sebastià Roca and that the group’s vote of no confidence against Núñez actually failed at the time and their subsequent presidential candidate, Lluís Bassat Coen, lost the 2000 election to Joan Gaspart, one of Núñez’s VPs.

I previously failed to inform all of you that Benedito was a member of Laporta’s 2003 presidential campaign and ended up working in both the sporting and social sides of the club until February 2009 when he left the administration due to differences with Laporta stemming from the “caso Uzbek” (the scandal involving Laporta and Uzbek businesses looking to by Mallorca and earn Laporta a hefty commission; you can read a little bit about it here).

Benedito’s official “platform” is here in PDF form, though it’s also entirely in Catalan.

His plans include keeping Guardiola (Spoiler alter! No candidate has mentioned anything other than keeping Guardiola…surprise!), but axing Txiki Begiristain from his role as sporting director and José Ramón Alexanko as director of youth development. His views on youth academies appear to be that they shouldn’t really exist outside of Barcelona–the logical conclusion from his statement that he’d rather be looking for players is that they would be purchased individually rather than creating a system in which they would grow up and slowly feed the club with talent from around the world. Rather than spending huge amounts of money now to get “free” players, you would spend smaller amounts on individuals who would meet the same needs later. He is also in favor of keeping the UNICEF shirt deal going until it expires, though what he plans to do after that is unclear.

The economics of the club are not his strong suit and his plan rattles off several catchphrases (for instance: “increased revenue in recent years has been offset by increased spending”) while he provides no concrete steps to change any of that. In a recent debate he suggested that Barça’s debts, listed as €489m, is no big deal and that we can work through and around it without selling the Miniestadi or any other Barça-owned assets. He does promise, however, to consult the best economic minds in the world (“Encargaremos un estudio exhaustivo a los mejores expertos independientes sobre la estrategia óptima de gestión económica del Club”–“We will commission an exhaustive study by leading independent experts on the optimal economic management strategy for the club”). He also wants to remodel the Camp Nou, though again, he offers no particular insights into how to do that.

When it comes to the socios, Benedito seems to be pushing the idea that the members own the club and it should be more obvious that they do (for instance, he wants to make sure that FCB negotiates deals with TV broadcasters to make sure all members get the signal for free–a lot of games are on pay-per-view in Spain). There’s no mention of any limits or nationality requirements for members on his site; instead, he pushes the idea of creating two new concepts of membership: “associates” and “barcelonistas”. The former is for locals and the latter for foreigners who don’t want to be full members of the club (and implicit in that is that they could become members, but it is not explicitly stated). Because of the fairly ambiguous nature of these statements (for instance here and here), it’s hard to nail down what he is really looking to do in terms of the membership. He does want to knock off 50% of the ticket price for non-season-ticket holding members while also maintaining the same membership cost.

According to his site, Benedito is also in favor of creating a program called Becas Barça (Barça Scholarships) to provide students with the ability to study various subjects that relate to Barcelona, such as sports medicine. Beyond that, he suggests that a way to provide discounted memberships to those members who have fallen on hard times should be found.

My take: Benedito seems to be a man with a lot of social aspirations for the club, but few concrete ideas on how to handle them. He’s an astute businessman, it appears, but he’s lacking the umph of a well-rounded candidate. His ideas (the 50% ticket price cut for most members, for instance) come off as pie-in-the-sky ideas that we can all get behind if we ignore the economics involved. Still, because the current situation is all about economics, sometimes the very important social issues do get pushed to the side and it’s nice to see Benedito taking the stance that the club should be more involved in the local and international communities that it is a part of. He takes a hands-off approach to the sporting side of things, which is good–he states several times in his debates and interviews that he will leave Pep to his own thing. His wishes to get rid of Txiki and Alexanko are strange in that light, but that is more board room politics than it is sports-related, so it’s more understandable.

Would I vote for him? No, but he’s a stronger candidate than I thought before I started this research. He wants to have voting by mail, which would be fantastic for foreign members such as myself, but his ambiguous statements about who would be allowed to be members–he’s never been nailed down this, remember–put me off a little because of my views about the club’s meaning and direction. He’s certainly has the least likelihood of winning the presidency, but I’m happy he’s running.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


      • Kxevin
        June 7, 2010

        A baboon dragging its balls along an electrified plate while screaming in agony sounds better than Rosell.

        (Don’t ask where they come from, just revel in the magnificence.)

        • Kari
          June 7, 2010

          I do just that, Kxevin. 😀 I do just that

          How Ray Ray-esque.

        • Ethan
          June 7, 2010

          rofl. i wish i had a way with words like u.

        • Vj
          June 7, 2010

          Agreed, even Tomas Roncero sounds better than Rosell..

          • Vj
            June 8, 2010

            Now that you’ve said it, what I should’ve written was
            “Tomas Roncero does sound better than Rosell”.

            Blame studying till 4am for that slip..

  1. Jnice
    June 7, 2010

    Nice post. I think he would be lost as president, although he does have some noble ideas.

  2. Jnice
    June 7, 2010

    From Freddy Adu’s twitter: spoke to Ibrahimovic last night. Great guy. gave me some really good advice. Lots of soccer players here. Amauri, Ibra, and ancelotti(coach)

  3. poipoi
    June 7, 2010

    barcelona ath vs sant andreu, we got ourselves a derby!!!!

  4. Euler
    June 7, 2010

    Pep had a wonderful post with a translation of some highlights from the first debate the candidates had on Catalunya radio a couple of days ago. Well worth reading. A couple of quotes of interest:

    Benedito: “The Boixos Nois are supporting Rosell, they are shouting ‘Rosell president’. In meetings of Rosell with fan groups there have been representatives of the violent groups.”

    Ingla: “It’s sad Rosell has made photos with factions of the Boixos Nois hooligans.”

    Rosell: “We want zero violence at the stadium.”

    [Pep in a comment:] …quote of the debate probably for benedito (talking to rosell): “if you want to keep the hooligans out of the stadium, you could maybe start with keeping them out of your offices.”

    Rosell: “40.000 people of Siberia could become club member and decide who will be the new president. We don’t want to lose the Catalan identity of the club. We need to regulate the members.”

    Ingla: “We want an open club, Rosell wants to close the club to some families.”

    Ferrer: “The number of members should be limited. We want another system so the people can be linked to the club in another way.”

    Ingla: “This Barça is build by Cruyff, Txiki, Rijkaard and Pep. The project of Rosell will break with all that. He will bring his own people in.”


    • Jnice
      June 7, 2010

      Yeah, I saw this earlier. I think the debate was this morning.

  5. I love the fact they are teaming up on Sandro, hopefully they get enough momentum to block him winning, but I think they will cancel each others votes out and Rosell will win. The only way Sandro losses is if 2 others drop out and support one who runs against him, then everything might fall into place and it could be a real runoff.

  6. vicsoc8
    June 7, 2010

    I’ve been watching Benedito’s comments very closely. He strikes me as a man who wants two things:
    1. What’s best for the club
    2. To increase the accountability of the club to the members, it’s owners
    I think this is important because from where I’m sitting he has no chance of winning. I think he is an astute man, and I think he knows that he has a very slim chance as well. His candidacy is becoming a candidacy of issues – he is always bringing up issues with the club that other candidates are reluctant to bring up.

    Benedito may not have a chance to win, but he will play a vital roll in the elections by forcing the other candidates to talk about issues that might otherwise be forced under the rug.

    Since I believe his main concern is what is best for the club, I find it very telling that he has made a comment like “if you want to keep the hooligans out of the stadium, you could maybe start with keeping them out of your offices.”

  7. Euler
    June 7, 2010

    The Yaya situation is becoming progressively more strange and thanks to Seluk in particular, ridiculous.

    The Times is now reporting that Yaya’s deal is off with Man City – not because of Barca’s transfer fee request – but because of Yaya’s wage demands.

    Interesting how “playing time” demands translate into increased “wage” demands. So much so that the deal Seluk assured us was done last week, the deal that provided Yaya with the respect he so deserves, is now under threat of falling apart.

    And now Seluk is trying to engineer a deal with – Arsenal to use Yaya as a make weight for the Fabergas deal. Yes – that Arsenal, the same club that Seluk said a few weeks ago Yaya had no interest in.

    The best part is Seluk’s tactful quotes today explaining the situation with Man City:

    “There’s a lot of interest in the deal [for Touré],” Seluk told Rac-1. “Arsène Wenger likes him and Arsenal are interested. If the conditions are good, everything can be finished soon.

    “He could come into the Cesc deal and Barça and Arsenal are struggling to come to an agreement. Everything has changed with City, because they talk a lot but then afterwards they don’t appear to be a rich club but rather a bankrupt one.”

    City has been described in many ways. But “bankrupt” – at least financially bankrupt? This may be a first.

    I’m sure City will look kindly on those words. And I’m sure if Yaya’s hope was to play with his brother that Seluk’s words will make City look at Yaya in an even more positive light. This will definitely get the deal done.

    Just like Seluk saying Yaya didn’t want to play for Arsenal a few weeks ago will help facilitate this deal Seluk is trying to put together now.

    Yaya is spending his money well on Seluk.

    The least understood words in international football may be the most useful, “no comment.”


    • Vj
      June 7, 2010

      Pond Scum Seluk also said last year that Yaya wouldn’t join Man City..

    • vicsoc8
      June 7, 2010

      Seluk is a train wreck. He might just talk his way into Toure staying

  8. Ciaran
    June 7, 2010

    For anyone who wants to see Thiago’s freekick and assist in the last game…

    • poipoi
      June 7, 2010

      I posted something on more or less the same subject… – “barcelona ath vs sant andreu, we got ourselves a derby!!!!” – … HELLO? this is sorta big for barça our youngsters could be promoting to Segunda! The games are gonna be so exciting, derby against a humble Barcelona neighborhood team AND plus they’re finals 😀 Much respect to Sant Andreu, FCB wacko expresident Joan Gaspart is now their presi lol

      • June 7, 2010

        Yeah, I’m getting pumped for these matches. Hopefully I can find a way to watch them here in the States. I’ll probably end up being unable to, but whatever.

        The fact that Gaspart is now the President of San Andreu does totally make this way awesomer.

  9. Soccernet is reporting that Yaya is going to be used as a make weight for Cesc, which means he will be playing CL ball next year, interesting!

  10. Ciaran
    June 7, 2010

    I wish Yaya just decided to stay and said that he’ll play wherever the coach wants me. I think he is the best available central defender and defensive midfielder all rolled into one gigantic package.
    If he did stay and alternated between DM and CB positions then all we would need is v.d.Wiel & Cesc; or v.d.Wiel, promote Thiago and sign a winger like Mata, Silva, Di Maria or Elia.

    • Ciaran
      June 7, 2010

      I should explain, if we played Yaya at centre back when we are playing Busi in midfield instead of the likes of Chyggy or Marquez then we would not have this problem with Yaya’s agent running his mouth except for maybe another pay rise. He is clearly a better central defender than either of those sloths. His defending is better, he’s faster stronger and better on the ball than they are.
      Pique is obviously no.1 in defense but Puyol and Milito cant play together so when Pique is not there Yaya would be a better option than the other two saving us a few million in wages and in signing someone not as good.

      • BA
        June 7, 2010

        hit the nail on the head. now if only someone would do the same to Seluk….

  11. Soto
    June 7, 2010

    I am not currently a socio, which is largely due to the economics of being a graduate student. But I have been planning to make becoming a socio my graduation gift, to myself, for some time now. Thus, the stance of the candidates concerning foreign socios is particularly important to me.

    I am actually quite surprised by the comments form the candidates concerning foreign socios status, particularly Rosell. Considering that foreign socios can not vote unless they fly out to Barcelona, why does there seem to be so much consternation over the foreign portion of the club ownership. Considering that socio membership is not cheap and that the foreign socios are less likely to take advantage of the ticket deals available to socios, you would think that the club management would be more respectful to a group of socios that are making a real economic contribution to the club that they love.

    Isaiah, is this state of affairs new or has it always been this way?

    (The fear mongering towards foreign socios certainly cools my desire to sign up.)

    • Kxevin
      June 7, 2010

      It’s new, Soto, and is a direct consequence of the “more Catalan than thou” pissing match between Laporta and Rosell, as they try to outdo each other. First the Internet voting was scuppered because of not being able to keep the system from being rigged, which is so much festering bullshit. Then Rosell wants to up the “Whoa! I’m SO Catalan!” ante by saying, essentially, that Barca should be for Catalans, lest those pesky furriners decide that they want a Russian president, and the 50,000 Russian socis would rise as one, fly to Barcelona en masse and vote in, say, Dmitri Seluk, who would then make The Yaya coach/player, and he would give himself a raise, and make sure that he plays all the time.

      Can’t have that now, can we?

      • Soto
        June 7, 2010

        I don’t know. . . having an actual galaxy as coach/player might be a good thing. 🙂

        So I guess that Laporta and Rosell have forgotten that 5 of the first 16 presidents were of English or Swiss or German nationality, including our Swiss founder? (See *http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_FC_Barcelona_presidents. I hope I got the count right.)

        And Barca turned out alright, despite this foreign influence.

        This is just sad. And insulting. Here’s hoping that this is just a passing fad driving by election silliness.

        • Kxevin
          June 7, 2010

          Well, you can thank the would-be King of Catalunya for politicizing the club. Yes, Barca has always been political, but Laporta has been striving to convert it into a nationalist symbol, a living, breathing manifestation of his ambition to rule. “Look what I did for our most vibrant symbol, now imagine what I would do for Catalunya.”

          This all comes at a time when, dependent upon who you ask, secession fervor has never been higher. A recent referendum on the matter carried by almost 98 percent, but only the small towns (secesh loyal) voted. The Barcelona vote is still to come, and that one will be the most illuminating.

          Not that any of it will matter, because Catalunya is about as likely to secede from Spain as I am able to use my jet pack to flit over, vote and flit back home. So it becomes a theoretical exercise rooted in Spanish political power. Laporta is an ambitious man.

          Problem is that in seeking the Barca presidency, because the office and club have been politicized in an unfortunate way (note how many socis resent Laporta’s political grandstanding while president), Rosell must out-Catalan Laporta, no small feat when your “opponent” has already staked out the ground. So you have to be even more extreme.

          Hence the silly stuff.

  12. Luke
    June 7, 2010

    Is there a chance the others could consolidate because otherwise Rosell is going to walk away with this one. That will be back for those of us who want to become socios in the very near future.

  13. tutomate
    June 7, 2010

    Isaiah or Kxevin, do you guys think maybe we can do something where we can send each of the candidates a questionare whith questions we are interesteed in? Maybe even get an interview with some of them?

  14. Kxevin
    June 8, 2010


    Might have to buy me a David Villa shirt just for his stance. He has included an anti-racism clause in his contract, stipulating that he and the club will not engage in any racist or discriminatory activities, on or off the pitch.

    Yes, it’s symbolic, but having it in his contract, and the contract of an elite player, says something. No, Villa wasn’t going to do such a thing anyway, and as near as I can find, no penalties are stipulated for any transgression.

    But sometimes, symbols are important.

    • ballbeav
      June 8, 2010

      i think that was a move by the club, not villa. i think the club plans to do that with all new signings now (unless the newly elected dude decides different)

      buy his shirt anyway 🙂

  15. Kxevin
    June 8, 2010

    And oh, yeah …. the two biggest rumors these days, despite neither having any basis in reality, are Ibrahimovic for Robinho, something that has been categorically denied by Laporta and Oliver, and The Yaya to Arsenal to lower the price of a player who is NOT FOR SALE.

    It will stop very soon, however, as everyone has this thing called the World Cup to worry about.

  16. ballbeav
    June 8, 2010


    folks, here is pep guardiola’s facebook page. i dont have facebook and i dont think it would be good (for me) to establish one. for all of you that DO have facebook, please send a message to Pep and ask him to find a way to keep Yaya.

    and send him my love. cheers.

  17. I’m wondering if anyone knows what Canada’s immigration requirements are. As an outdated fart, I probably don’t possess the “skills” they want. They’ll clearly see that I’m fleeing a bad country, looking for decent medical.

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