False Transparency and Barça: Thoughts on a Presidency [Updated]

Tomorrow we play Real Sociedad. They’re a good squad and I’m happy to have them back in La Liga. But I’ve got other things to write about that are more important than any single league match. We’ve been talking about it for a while now and I’m sorry if you’re sick of it, but we shouldn’t let it slide, even if we’re about to take on the 6th place team (while RM are taking on the last placed team).

I first started following this club because I fell in love with their style of play, their history, and the fact that they were fan-owned and fan controlled. Later, my ties were only further entrenched by the UNICEF shirt deal, which spoke to the club’s absolute commitment to the causes of solidarity and civic duty. I loved it and didn’t think twice about the way it went down. I started blogging about the team shortly afterwards and it never crossed my mind to consider discussing the process through which these decisions were made.

Fast forward to this past summer, then. I’ve become a much more well-rounded fan, writer, and indeed member of the club. I was on the fence and leaning more towards no confidence in the vote against Laporta–especially after he showed massive disdain for the fans  and members in that summer’s NYC tour–and much of what he’s accused of by the new administration is damnable activity, indeed. But the transgressions of the past are no excuse for the transgressions of the present.

Sandro Rosell’s campaign was, in large part, about being anti-Laporta and yet also pro Catalan. In this vein he took to the air on RadioMarca and denounced African players as, in essence if not in these exact words, others who were typically attempting to lie and cheat their way into Barça’s academy. Foreigners, he suggested, were taking places from “our boys”. A throwaway line, probably but the man interviewing him, Santiago Segurola, pointed out that Rosell makes no negative claims about players coming from, say Argentina, just those from Africa and Asia. Quintessential “others.”

When he was elected, Rosell immediately attacked Laporta, accusing him of misuse of funds and asking the General Assembly to hold Laporta personally accountable for debts accrued during his tenure. When the vote came up, Rosell abstained from voting, hiding behind a wall of his board members rather than owning his own recommendation. A full accounting of the books was promised for Nov 2 because, unlike the previous administration, transparency was important to this one. Member involvement was important. Instead of a true accounting and a clear look at the Deloitte accounts drawn up to counter Laporta’s own numbers, no more information than was previously released by the club–that is, merely total numbers and grandiose claims with no proof–was published at the members office and was only viewable by those who showed up in person.

Laporta made Johan Cruyff an Honorary President and Rosell immediately said that it was unjust, that it wasn’t an official position that Laporta had the power to create, nominate, and confirm. Sandro claimed that the members needed to vote on this important matter. And then he changed the membership requirements to xenophobic and exclusive levels. Without putting it up for a vote. And most recently he  made the unilateral decision to add a sponsor to the shirt, again without putting it up for a vote. Only important matters, like honorary presidencies should be voted on by the real owners of the club, of course.

I don’t have a fully formed opinion on Qatar Foundation yet or where I stand on the question of the shirt front. In a lot of ways, it doesn’t matter  to me whether we have a “clean” shirt front or not–I like UNICEF and want to keep supporting these non profits and part of that includes using our shirt front. I don’t want a corporate sponsor on there, though it should be pointed out that we already have one: Nike. Ever noticed the swoosh?  The shirt front isn’t “clean” right now and hasn’t been for decades. As has been pointed out, we’ve sold our shirt front before and no one seems to be worried about our souls for that, so some of the holier-than-thou attitude is a bit much. If QF is a decent organization that stands for what it claims to, then I’m not sure what the difference is, morally, to having their symbol instead of UNICEF’s, especially if we get to keep both.

The problem is the process. The problem is the claim of transparency and then the utter lack of it. A surprise announcement that we’ve made a deal with a foundation in Qatar, a place with human rights problems (though I challenge anyone to find me a country without human rights abuses of some kind–my own country, a self styled bastion of rights for all, has plenty), is not transparency. It is not the democracy we claim to have. What’s the point of being a member if you don’t have a say? And these questions about QF aren’t merely reactions to an Arab foundation, but instead any foundation. We, as members, should have our questions answered on something this important and we should have them answer in an open and transparent forum. And then we should decide for ourselves whether we want this or not.

The club must accept its role as a global organization, with members around the world (despite the restrictions, we’re still here, Sandro), and accept not just the technology involved in worldwide votes–we can securely purchase tickets online, so we already have the system in place–but the willingness to use it. I want to vote from New York on referendums and I want to have a say in my club’s future. That includes shirt sponsorships and yes, honorary presidents too.

I will remain a member of this club because, as Kevin says, I want to be around to vote down Rosell’s chosen successor. But it’s more than that, too. It’s because I know that this is a blip in the club’s history. FC Barcelona will outlive Sandro Rosell. It will outlive us all. It is a bigger organization than any of us and we should remember that. And then we should demand accountability from the preening politicians talking about just that in their campaigns and press releases.

So then Real Sociedad, briefly: Jeffren and Milito are the only absences and Milito did do some warm ups with the rest of the squad in practice today. That’s good news. Bojan appears fully fit after his face-to-hip study of impact force (I hope he gets an A in his Science Fair project), but regardless, we should be able to field our best squad. Keita needs some time on the field, though, so I hope to see him get some minutes.

Sociedad is better at home, having beaten both Villarreal and Espanyol there. They have yet to play any of the other top 6 away yet (they lost RM at home in a match they should have won comfortably), but against other competition they’re 2-1-4 (10GF, 13GA) and haven’t beaten anyone higher than 17th. They have also never held a clean sheet away. At home, they’ve done so 5 times, but that won’t help them in the Camp Nou.

Official Prediction: 3-0, goals by Messi (2) and Villa.

Game is at 3pmEST, 9pm local, check your local time here.

UPDATE: here’s this week’s La Liga Weekly Podcast:

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.

130 Comments

  1. Kari
    December 12, 2010

    Guardiola: “Pedro? If your dad works at a gas station, you can’t be a bad player. He’s an angel. We’re happy to have him, they all love him” [barcastuff]

    Like Xavi and the mushrooms.

    And this is why I love Graham Hunter.

    /http://espn.go.com/sports/soccer/news/_/id/5894424/why-barca-best-all-time

  2. Nick
    December 12, 2010

    Like some other people here, I have always been for a “clean” shirt. Unicef could be supported in so many different ways. Shame it has served as a door for QF and other future sales.

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