How do you want to remember Joan Laporta, our former president?
If you ask Sandro Rosell, you should remember him as he is here, a champagne-soaked spendthrift who lit his cigars with 100-Euro notes from the Barca treasury. And he must be made to pay.
If you ask Joan Laporta, he’s the man who presided over the most successful sporting year in this club’s history. Even the basketball team won the equivalent of the Champions League.
If you ask me, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care if Laporta did the limbo under a chain of flaming 1,000-Euro notes while gargling champagne, if he was right or wrong for doing so. At the end of the day, he did his job in my eyes, a job that Sandro Rosell should be so lucky to do as well.
But it isn’t that easy, in this world of lies, damned lies, numbers and ego.
As most of you know, Saturday’s first general assembly under the aegis of our new president featured a vote that was taken to hold Laporta personally responsible for fiscal mismanagement. It passed by a simple (and close) majority, and off we go, to court. The vote, that Rosell called one of the “most important” in Barca’s history, was 468-439, with 113 abstentions. It was a vote that Rosell called one “against mismanagement.”
Which means what? That Laporta is to be held accountable for the claimed 11m surplus that is more like an almost 80m deficit. Well, to the victor goes the spoils. That is, the winner gets to define the numbers and how they are presented. There is an excellent analysis of precisely this phenomenon here, at the most excellent Swiss Ramble. And at the end of it all, the real truth is that we will never know the real truth, which is probably somewhere in the middle of Laporta’s “everything’s rosy” and Rosell’s “look at what he did!”
But let’s look at just some of the catalogue of horrors:
EUR90,000 in U2 tickets
EUR4,937 for dinner??!!
EUR2.6m in private detectives and special security
EUR360,000 in private jet rentals for players and managers
These were some of the costs deemed “not necessary for the management of the club.”
Ah, more grey areas, because who says? We presume this means that under Rosell’s watch, visiting dignitaries will be given one of those jurassic hot dogs from the Camp Nou kiosks, some popcorn and the right to buy a seat to a match. In our “austerity” budget, why not, right?
I don’t care, because what Sandro Rosell is doing is ugly and personal, and it doesn’t befit the president of the best club in the world. Said behavior, which is in the the vendetta category for me, damages the global perception of the club. Can’t have writers nattering about a huge match against Valencia and an amazing second-half display. There’s a future King of Catalunya and his alleged financial excesses to be smacked down. Laporta says that he hopes he can do for Catalunya what he did for Barca. Rosell says what, spend almost 5k on a single night’s meal at a restaurant?
And so all of this crap comes out. Rosell says it’s all about transparency and accounting. Laporta says he built the best Barca ever, and Rosell and the board just hate me. The battle will go on, played out in the very public forum that is the Spanish, Catalan and global football media. The Guardian’s Sid Lowe has an excellent take on the matter. So does Santi Segurola.
And know that the next Barca president who takes over a club that is in black-inked, tip-top financial shape will be the first. If Rosell were really serious about cutting debt, he could sell Xavi, Messi, Iniesta and, oh, Pique, and probably knock 300-400m off that bottom line in a heartbeat. That’s what Valencia did, and they don’t seem to be that worse off for it. Recall that Nunez, Laporta’s predecessor, held the line on salaries, letting the likes of Maradona, Romario and (proper) Ronaldo find the door. And the club won 27 trophies during his 22-year tenure, so fiscal common sense can’t be all bad, right?
Again, I don’t care.
Did Laporta entertain? Yep. Do club presidents everywhere entertain? Yep. The restaurant bills for Hercules won’t be as big as they are for us, yes? And again, who really cares?
Because what a president, a leader is supposed to do is identify a problem and fix it. What a leader is not supposed to do is apportion public blame against his predecessor, then abstain from the vote to go after Laporta. It’s also behavior that I find loathsome, because dragging Laporta through the mud is ultimately dragging Barca through the mud, which I care about a lot more than Laporta’s reputation being sullied. If they are suing Laporta for fiscal malfeasance, why can’t we sue Rosell for behavior detrimental to preservation of the club’s image? Because that is exactly what he’s doing, and it has to stop. Not that it will, until every chance that Laporta ever had of any success in his post-Barca political life is gone. Because that, to me, is the real point of what Rosell is doing, hiding behind a cloak of “transparency” and “due diligence.”
You’re the president. Fix the problems, and shut up about it. “Hey! Look at what I have to do! This other dude screwed up so bad, now I have to fix it!” Those are the howls of an insecure man, the same kind of man who announces that soci membership will be restricted and then, of course, now that the quantity and quality of the body politic is therefore known, hey, online voting will be allowed in the next presidential election. And yes, the same kind of man who lays player losses (Ibrahimovic, Henry) at the feet of his predecessor, and player gains (Yaya sale) at his own feet. That’s the kind of transparent, straight-up accounting we need. Saints be praised! Now off with Laporta’s head.
2 Champions League titles
4 Liga titles
1 Copa del Rey title
4 Spanish SuperCopas
1 Club World Cup
1 UEFA SuperCup
The club forged historic partnerships with Nike in the MES program, and rather than selling the front of the shirt, decided to pay UNICEF to carry the organization’s logo on the front of what has become the most coveted shirt spot in all of world football.
That is mismanagement how, exactly? Oh, wait …. dinner cost too much, dammit!
I want my president to run the club in a way that brings it sporting and fiscal success, in that order of priority. I also want my president to be a credit to my club. Rosell is already a failure at this, and the farther his vendetta against Joan Laporta goes, the greater his failure. You can’t eradicate the memories of sporting success by telling people that the guy spent too much for dinner, private jets for the players and entertainment. No, you can’t blithely dismiss the extravagances, but you can’t make people forget that, when everybody was clamoring for Jose Mourinho, Laporta took a chance on some B-Team dude named Guardiola, who led the club to 6 trophies in one season. At least not by saying he likes expensive cigars, and so does his chauffeur.
You just can’t. Hell, you can’t even irrefutably argue that Rosell’s vendetta is damaging the club. There are probably many socis (at least 468 of ’em, in fact) who are outraged at the fiscal expenditures of Laporta, who believe that he should be held accountable, that the club can recover from any public black eyes.
I just don’t believe that their war and Laporta’s alleged malfeasance matters, because Rosell has a football club to run, one that has to start thinking about new contracts for the likes of Alves and Busquets (more money), that has two wee strikers who can’t seem to put the ball in the net, and a president who believes that dumping the free money that comes from club memberships should be eschewed so that we can make it easier for people to, someday, get their hands on a season ticket.
Success costs money. Laporta spent a lot of it, and almost certainly more than he should have. But elected presidents and true leaders don’t do what Sandro Rosell is doing. It would be like a newly elected U.S. President analyzing the books, deciding that his predecessor spent too much on redecorating the West Wing and entertaining, and asking the voting public for the right to go after the ex-President for fiscal mismanagement. You have a nation to run, dumbass. So get on with it.