Previously I covered the three of the candidates for Barça president (here and here) and now it is down to the final candidate. As Kevin pointed out in the comments, we socis have received our official invitations to vote on Sunday along with our table assignments. It is with great sadness that I have to announce that I will be unable to attend and vote in what otherwise would have been my first Barça election. There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth going on in my household today.
This post concerns the final candidate to be reviewed:
Alexandre “Sandro” Rosell i Feliu. Born March 6, 1964 in Barcelona. Official site.
Rosell is a Catalan businessman in the sports marketing industry and soci number 12,556. He Most notably he was the Sports Marketing Director for Nike in Spain and Portugal and then later for the whole of South America where, among other things, he negotiated the Nike contract with the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF). He founded a sports marketing company, Bonus Sports Marketing, S.L., which he claims he will sell if he is elected president to avoid any conflicts of interest (as best as I can tell he founded it in 2002, but this might be erroneous; if it was founded in 2002, how was it not a conflict of interest when he was Barça’s VP?). He joined forces with Joan Laporta in 2003 and became the Vice President of Sports Operations until 2005 when he split with the administration and resigned.
His immediate sporting plan is unclear because he refuses to discuss it in-depth. He would keep Guardiola, of course, but Txiki’s future remains in doubt simply because Rosell has both said that he would altogether eliminate the “Director of Football” position at Barça and talk to Txiki concerning the future. Rosell’s answers to whether he would or would not keep Txiki around are, in many ways, obfuscations of a plan he already has in mind. What the plan will be is open to interpretation, but because of that, the only logical conclusion is that if Rosell does eliminate Txiki’s position, it will be he himself making the final decisions regarding players. Clearly Rosell sees himself in that light as he brought in Ronaldinho and was a member of the board when Pedro, Jeffren, and Busi all started in La Masia. It’s a interesting to note that Rosell appears to have a problem with Cruyff being as influential in the club as indeed he is, up to and including the “honorary president” status that he received this year. Whether or not Rosell will actually break with the Cruyff model–which Guardiola certainly represents–is something that also cannot be answered because of the vagueness with which he approaches any questioning. What is clear is his desire to not have worldwide academies because he believes they don’t work and are expensive. He prefers to bring in foreign players by buying them than developing them outside of La Masia.
His economic plan appears to be fairly similar to that of Ingla, with one notable exception. Like Ingla, he is pushing international expansion–and directly thanking Nike in his platform for helping the Barça brand expand as much as it has (“La marca “Barça” se está haciendo global gracias a los resultados deportivos, a la televisión, a UNICEF, a Nike y a las nuevas tecnologías…”)–especially through “ambassador” roles. As with all the candidates, buzzwords and business phrases fill the majority of his economic plan: “increase revenue and reduce spending” “recapitalize the club and reduce debt”; no real plan of action is mentioned, of course, but it’s probably fairly safe to assume a model along the lines of the Ingla and Ferrer platforms is the idea.
His most worked out plans appear to be the expansion of the area around the Camp Nou (Les Corts): “Remodelación interior del Camp Nou, un nuevo Palau Blaugrana y un gran Parque Central.” — “Remodeling the interior of the Camp Nou, [building] a new Palau Blaugrana [where Barça basketball is played], and [building] a Central Park. Random, not very explanatory video here. The overall plan includes keeping the Miniestadi and not going with the Norman Foster concept for remodeling the Camp Nou while acquiring new assets (it appears that a hotel or condo building is involved in this from the video).
As for the members:
Si queremos que los socios puedan recibir más y mejores servicios tenemos que regular la entrada de nuevos socios con el empeño de que el crecimiento no sea sólo cuantitativo sino también cualitativo en servicios, atenciones y contraprestaciones.
If we want members to be able to receiver more and better services, we have to regulate the entrance of new members so that growth is not just cuantitative, but also qualitative in services, attention, and tradeoffs.
Rosell’s statements concerning new members are basically aimed at new, foreign members. A major part of his platform is that Catalunya is not only the focal point of Barcelona, but that it is the point of Barcelona and any intrusion into that realm by foreign members is a negative. I base this subjective assertion on his statements that foreign members, if their numbers are allowed to continue to grow unchecked, will soon be able to out-vote Catalan members and elect whoever they so choose: “40.000 people of Siberia could become club member[s] 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.” (quote taken from here)
The opening to Rosell’s platform is about Catalan identity and that Catalan nature of the club. It would be both presumptuous and preposterous of me to assert that Barcelona is not a Catalan institution or at all connected to the notions of Catalan culture, society, and even independence, but it is worth noting that there is a different between pride in one’s culture and region, and nationalism. Forgive me for delving into politics for a moment: the exclusionary nature of “nationalism” is one of the blights on modern society (see Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, for instance) and is often thinly veiled racism. What I mean is: Rosell recently discussed the influx of African players into la Masia in terms of them taking the place of our boys. When challenged about whether or not Lionel Messi should have arrived, what with him being foreign and all and taking the place of our boys, he dismisses it because it suddenly becomes a question of legal documentation rather than where you’re from.
What nationalism often does is rationalize what is accepted and what is not because the accepted parts are “most like us”. A man whose claim to the presidency resides not only on his birth in Catalunya, but also in his international business career, his ability to bring in players like Ronaldinho, Pedro, and Jeffren, dismisses players from Africa because they are ruining the hopes and dreams of local boys. Pedro and Jeffren, of course, are like us, they’re Spanish speakers, they’re not different, they’re not black. African players, of course, have never done a thing for Barça. “Foreign members” strikes a cord in an economically down time in Barcelona, not because they fear the influx of Russians or Americans, but rather because there is real social tension between Spaniards and African immigrants, just as there is real social tension between white Arizonans and Latino immigrants.
Barcelona stands for a lot of things, including Catalyuna’s right to exist and have its own culture, but the rejection of outside influence from one source and not another is not an attempt to be more Catalunyan, but rather to stoke fears and prey on social tensions. To reject Africa players and African influence, but not reject Argentine players and Argentine influence is nothing less than racism. Sandro Rosell preaches Catalanism alongside international solidarity, but stokes nationalist flames with rhetoric better suited to fringe party rallies than the board room of a football club. It is unacceptable that a club such as Barcelona, which claims to be above the general fray and be a beacon of light in the darkness (més que un club, after all), would elect a man whose platform has few to no concrete policies and is willing to espouse racist and xenophobic fear-mongering.
I apologize to those of you who wish to discuss only the sporting endeavors of this great club, but it is impossible to follow this club as closely and lovingly as I do and not be drawn into the political cesspool from time to time. I cherish this club because it stands for a myriad of things beyond football, including international solidarity, Catalunya’s right to have its own language and place in history (and if it so chooses, independence), and a belief that a football club can make a difference beyond the field of play. And it can. But it can also be used for evil and Sandro Rosell, despite his Tots som el Barça campaign slogan, does not want everyone included in the Barcelona family.
My Take: A vote for Sandro Rosell is a vote for xenophobia at best and racism at worst, with a sprinkling of hypocritical “universality” thrown in. He is not a decent candidate by any stretch because his social approach is devoid of decency and devoid of logic. He falls into nationalist rhetoric and emerges a morally bankrupt man whose entire candidacy rests on shouting hatred from the rooftops. Reprehensible and disgusting, to say the least.
If he were to cut out his social plans, he would at least be in line with Ferrer and Benedito, if not also Ingla, and I could easily deal with him winning. Even if he’s not serious about limiting membership or even if once elected he would silence his attacks on African players and work on the legal issue in a straightforward manner rather than making “an issue of documentation into an issue of identity” (quote from a comment thread starting here, which is worth your time), he is using the tried and true method of fear and hatred to win an election. And that is vile and unacceptable.
If you think Rosell can lead us the best, that is all well and good, but to deny that he is using hatred to fuel his campaign is to deny a major part of what he stands for. I do not know his political background, but I do know that of all the candidates, I want the least to do with this one. My choice is Marc Ingla and were I a richer man, I would be in Barcelona to cast my vote. But I am, unfortunately, neither and that makes me sad.
The World Cup starts tomorrow morning (here in the US) and will take up the majority of our time for the next month. I will discuss the winner of the election on Monday and we’ll talk about some of the other things that come up during that time, but in general, get ready for a lot of Luke’s posts and the occasional editorial from me.
Visca el Barça and may the best candidate win.