Every day there’s a new turn in the FC Barcelona saga, with each episode being more shocking than the previous one. The signing of Boateng, the dispute with Valdés, the rejection of Puyol and Xavi, the ridiculous handling of Valverde’s sacking, the injury of Dembélé, the clash between Messi and Abidal, or the latest scandal at the club.
Today ‘Què T’hi Jugues?’ has reported that Barça hired the firm ‘I3 Ventures’ not only to create a positive image of Bartomeu online, but also to attack players like Messi and Piqué, legends in Xavi, Puyol and Pep, presidential candidates like Laporta or Víctor Font, or even Leo’s wife. They did it through unofficial Facebook and Twitter accounts that were instructed to make the current board look good.
This is actually more serious than a scandal – it could be a criminal offence. This is what’s called astroturfing, described as «the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants». What’s worse: almost €1 million were invested in such acts. This million was divided into 6 invoices, perfect to escape the Club’s Delegate Comission, which regulates contacts of over €200.000.
The board had no transparency or corporate ethics whatsoever. Barcelona’s statute allows the board to create ‘discussion forums’ for ‘consultative purposes only’. What it does not allow, though, is to spread information to alter the public opinion or create rejection, especially when it is directed towards some of the club’s employees – like the footballers.
It’s unclear what will this lead to. Agustí Benedito has confirmed that he will file a lawsuit against Bartomeu, while Víctor Font has said that this “embarrasses us and aggravates the reality” and “adds moral crisis at the club”. Meanwhile, the board-backed Mundo Deportivo has tried to hold Barto harmless and exclusively blame the I3 company.
What this case shows again is the clear loss of values from this institution, which is worse than any failure on the pitch. Bartomeu should quit as soon as possible, but I don’t think this will occur at all.