FC Barcelona is offcially a closed society, aka “Color me appalled”

Pep@Twitter couldn’t have summed it up better when he Tweeted on Thursday:

“This is a sad day in the history of FC Barcelona. The club has just been closed for new members if they’re not family of existing members.”

From the official site:

As of November 1, according to George Cardoner at a press conference, members can only be people who meet the following requirements: be first or second degree relative of a person who is a partner, be less than 14 years old or have been a member previously. Cardona, who pointed out that these changes, covered in Article 12a of the Statute, are “immediately applicable.”

In other words, FCB is not for you.

Note that this was one of the things that Sandro Rosell said that he was going to do. Prima facie, we were howling in outrage that the club was going to become not only more Catalan than thou, but solely Catalan. In fact, it’s even more restrictive, as even Catalans who aren’t members or family of members can join. So does the fact that our beloved club is equally exclusionary make it somehow right?

No.

Make no mistake, FC Barcelona is a private society that can do what it wants. There are clubs and societies all over the world who restrict membership in some way. But until now, anybody who wanted to pony up the EUR150 fee could wear their club quite literally on their heart by becoming a soci and getting the bronze lapel pin, along with the other benefits attendant to membership. As a global club, a truly global club, FC Barcelona was exemplary in that it allowed any and all to become members. If you love the club, join us.

Now it’s “You can love the club, but you can’t join us. You aren’t special enough.”

If I wanted to become a soci right now, I couldn’t. And I fail to see how restricting membership makes membership more special, unless you’re already a member, and are clapping your hands in glee that the ticketing maelstrom will not be any more difficult to deal with now.

The club derives significant income from memberships, but not really all that much in the grand, global club scheme of things. So my outrage isn’t from a fiscal sense. But in the notion of this being a global club, “Mes que un club,” as our puffed-chest slogan crows, we have failed miserably.

Membership is now a family legacy, to be passed down through generations. Will this harm the club’s popularity? No. As long as it keeps winning, people will keep supporting it. Does it remove the special quality of being a soci from loving and supporting that club? You bet.

I still remember when my packet came in the mail. I almost started crying. It was tangible evidence of my love for FC Barcelona. During a recent visit to Spain’s capital city, I wore the pin on my chest as we toured museums and the city. I took joy in the visual daggers being shot at my chest. Because not only do I love this club, but I love this club enough to join it, to pledge my fiscal support. Nothing says love like money, right? And the membership is fairly poor value, compared to what you get for it: an FCB e-mail address, discounts at the official site or in the Camp Nou Botiga, the Barca magazine mailed to your door and the shot to buy match tickets early. But it wasn’t the perks that made being a soci so special.

Now, that special feeling is restricted to a chosen few. And it makes that feeling, that joy of membership, a lot less special. I don’t believe in it, and I can’t support this measure. I don’t believe that any right-thinking soci can, or should.

We are studying a way that rewards associated faithful supporters and have appreciation for the club,” said the vice president. In other words, an Orwellian we are are equals, but some are more equal that others. It’s elitist bullshit, no matter how you slice it. The club further goes on to say that right now, there are 9500 members on the waiting list for season tickets. So as the club loses about 225 members per annum, this puts the duration for a coveted, guaranteed spot in the Camp Nou at about 42 years. So hey, fewer members will make the process easier, right? Yay, for us!

No. Shame on us. Not everybody who supports the club wants to or can become a soci. But the privelege should be there. For the club to remove that privelege, to say “Well, we’re thinking of some way for you second-class citizens to support us,” is scant comfort.

Recall that Rosell, during his pre-election talk, mentioned the potential of all those foreign socis (Oh, ick!) and theh possibility of there being enough of them to somehow adversely affect the club, to elect the “wrong” kind of president, or somehow make it less Catalan. We discussed it a bit in the comments portion of the various Rosell posts with shock and outrage, and some said shame on you all for lambasting Rosell before he’s even taken office.

Well he’s in there now, and he’s done it. FC Barcelona is officially, and for all time, a Catalan institution. Not technically, because I can hand down being a soci to my children and grandchildren, were I to choose to have them. So can any non-Catalan socio. For now. Is it hard to imagine all foreign memberships being revoked, or reduced to this second-class status? Not all that hard, actually. After all, the news about this change in the statues is only published on the Catalan portion of the club site.

But the bulk of the club’s members are Catalan, and I would wager that of those 225 members who decide not to renew, a significant portion of them are foreign. So it isn’t hard to envision a time when FC Barcelona membership will be all-Catalan, all the time. You can love the club, but you can’t love it as much as us. If Samuel Eto’o wanted to become a soci and he wasn’t already, a man who bled for this club, he couldn’t. Would they find some way to get him in? Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s shameful. Truly shameful, and all we can do is take hope that the next president will be able to come in and reverse this stupid, stupid decision that damages the club in that it harms the perception of the institution. During the whole Cesc Fabregas debacle, Arsenal fans labeled us “classless” for the way that situation was handled. We laughed about it, and scoffed at them. But as we climb up into the treehouse and pull up the ladder behind us, hanging out the sign that says “Access denied, and this means YOU,” it’s just a say day. Maybe Rosell and his cabal don’t care. If they cared, they wouldn’t have done it, right?

But I care. Very deeply. And right now, I am ashamed of my club. As NuriaMira tweeted, “Rosell tu no t’estimes el Barça” (Rosell, you do not love Barça).

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

104 Comments

  1. GREECE BARCA
    October 14, 2010

    ramzi if you come to greece i will be happy if we met and talk.there is nothing personal.i was out of my mind.just i don.t find logic a club have 10.000.000members and 100.000stadium.for me it s simple.they want to make new kids members and that.s good.people in barcelona are not in the streets now.so blame them no sandro.

  2. Luna
    October 14, 2010

    Sad day, sad day. What’s next on the list for Rossel, sigh

  3. Ramos
    October 14, 2010

    If you read the article on the website it also says “The board of directors are also looking for other ways to regulate the admission of new club members” wait and see if you are not Catalan you cannot join.

  4. Eduard
    October 14, 2010

    This is political, Catalans have always been a little mafioso so I hope you don’t take the Rosell thing personally. It doesn’t affect me because lots of my relatives are socios and I didn’t have any immediate plans to become a socio; although, one day I hope I can afford it. But the truth is, Rosell is a slippery piece of shit. And as you notice on the headlines of MundoDeportivo.es this morning Laporta started an assault on Rossels intergrity. Timely,? YOU BET! As a Catalan-born American-raised blaugrana I think it’s great that Nou Camp is a Catalan Flag Ship, however, I think we should try to be a club for people with excemplary values with a common sporting interest and not be exclusive, like Athletic Bilbao(they’er pretty babass though). All in all, I believe most Catalans think if you want to be a member and are willing to pay, become a member. Rosell can crawl up the ass he slipped out of.

  5. Lisa N
    October 15, 2010

    There goes my chance of ever being a member, though I live overseas.
    The new rule has kind of put me off. Screw U Rosell.

  6. October 15, 2010

    they might take some measures regarding the discriminated fans and implement some crappy chelsea-like “fan cards” system. It’s all about the Benjamins, so do not worry, they will find a way to “keep you satisfied”.

    I do not understand this nonsense, even hours after the first shock! I mean, if the main reason was to have a seat for the members, they could’de make lottery, to be fair, and if that was not the case, then they could’ve also say: this 30.000 seats are for members, and they wil rotate each month. In this scenario, once a year each member would get a chance to see at least 3-4 home games for sure /except El Classico. Other solution, if they are so worried about the elder members (even though that’s not what they say): tell everyone that has the Soci # from 104.000 untill nowadays (by example) that they can fuck themselves because it’s an ugly world and there ain’t no democracy, because only the first 100.000 members will get a chance to “enter the ticket lottery”… etc etc

    But it’s not about the tickets.

  7. Chelsea FC
    October 29, 2010

    More than a club eh? This hardly surprise me…

  8. rainbow84uk
    November 7, 2010

    Amszingly as a culé living in Barcelona, I’ve only just come across this change of policy today. I’ve supported Barça for years now and last season started going regularly to matches and looking into making myself a soci, but I didn’t have the money. Today I started thinking about it again and decided to do it for 2011 – not for the discounts or the goody bag or any other stupid reason, but because I truly feel culé and being a member would make me incredibly proud. So, not remembering exactly how much it cost, I went to check the website and got a huge shock.

    Gutted is not the word. If I’d thought about it a month earlier, I could be a soci now. As far as I know, this hasn’t been widely reported at all here and I’ve certainly not heard anyone complaining about it.

    I can kind of understand the desire to make membership a bit more exclusive…just stumping up the 150 a year wasn’t the toughest of requirements; after all, for many people that isn’t all that much money (not that I have that kind of cash to throw around on a whim!)

    However, there must be thousands of fans like me who live in Catalunya – some indeed born and bred here – who never miss a match, wear their shirt with pride and regularly pay good money to go to matches and support the team at Camp Nou, but who are not related to a current member. I’ve lived here for 5 years, am quite strongly pro-Catalunya and speak pretty fluent Catalan. However I am English and clearly don’t have any Catalan family at all, so unless I marry a member, I will never become a soci.

    How things can change so radically from one week to the next is mindblowingly baffling. Shameful, shameful decision.

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