Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Is it bad that Barça’s CEO, lawyer, and former president got arrested?

Barcelona’s former president Josep Maria Bartomeu got busted.
Barcelona’s former president Josep Maria Bartomeu got busted.
Image: Getty Images

This week on “What’s Gone Wrong At Barcelona Now?” we watch current and former execs go to the can!

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If it seems like we’re doing weekly updates on the mess Barcelona FC has become, it’s really not our fault. It’s theirs. And it’s not easy to keep embarrassing yourself worse than you did the last time, considering the heights of corruption Barça have hit in the past year. But this is Barcelona, where the magical becomes possible. It used to be on the field, when it wasn’t all that long ago they put together some of the best teams in history, if not the best. And now it’s definitely not on the field.

Former president Josep Maria Bartomeu, his main adviser, current CEO Oscar Grau, and Barça’s head of legal counsel, Roman Gomez Ponti were reportedly arrested this morning on charges relating to their social media smear campaign against their own players last year.

If you’ve forgotten, and there’s been a lot of other muck to wade through in the past year with this outfit that you’d be excused if you did, about this time last year, there were reports that Bartomeu and the Barça hierarchy hired I3 Ventures, which then set up social media accounts to attack players and figures that had been critical of the then-Barcelona president. And it sprayed to all fields, as Lionel Messi and Gerard Piqué were targets of the smear campaign, as well as former manager Pep Guardiola. Also, Barça may have paid nearly $800,000 over what they claimed I3 Ventures was doing for them normally — just normal social media marketing and improvement — which is making everyone wonder just what the club was paying for and why.

Barcelona had an independent investigation into the whole mess over the summer from Price Waterhouse Coopers, which found no wrongdoing. But the Catalan police aren’t so convinced, and this is the second time they’ve come a-knockin’ on the Camp Nou doors.

If you’re wondering why this might be a crime, libel, slander, or defamation is a crime in Spain. You can’t simply say anything about anyone in complete ignorance of the truth (say, there’s a concept). And there’s also the strange overpayment Bartomeu and his cronies gave to I3 Ventures and what they paid them to do, something else that would have the police raising an eyebrow.

What does this mean long-term for the things and people you might care about with Barcelona? Nothing good. Whatever strained bands of hope anyone had of Messi staying in Barcelona after this season won’t be helped by this, though Bartomeu is no longer involved with the club. It’s just more turmoil that the new president, who will be elected next week, is going to have to clean up.

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The club is in massive debt, is probably headed for a complete overhaul on the field, and is going to watch perhaps the greatest-ever player waltz out the door for free when the season is over. Whatever punishments the police levy are likely going to be against the club as well as the individuals involved. Which Barça can’t really afford now. Good times.

We can't be too careful. Two guys in an airport...talking? It's a little fishy.