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‘Very worrying’ situation for FC Barcelona as debts soar to €1.35 billion

Highly-anticipated audit reveals scope of “dramatic” financial crisis

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16 August 2021 02:56 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

Joan Laporta, president of FC Barcelona, has appeared before the media on Monday to reveal the “dramatic” results of the much-anticipated financial audit that was launched when he took office in March. 

The club’s debts have now reached €1.35 billion and the net worth of the club now stands at negative €451 million, as Laporta gave details of the “very worrying” financial position the club are in.

He put a figure of €91 million in losses as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, with fans being shut out from games for 18 months, as well as tourism coming to a halt leading to huge losses in merchandise sales and museum tour visits. 

The figurehead also admitted that his administration needed to take out a loan of €80 immediately upon taking office in order to pay the wages of players and staff on the books of the club. 

It was quickly discovered too that “urgent repair works” needed to be carried out on the Camp Nou stadium at a cost of €1.8 million. If the restoration works were not done, “the people visiting the stadium would be at risk,” the president revealed. “Thanks to the speed with which we acted, this Sunday the public has been able to come."

Laporta also took aim at the previous board, as he has done in some other recent press conferences. 

"The salary policy of the previous board is wrong,” he said. FC Barcelona’s unsustainable level of high salaries has been one of the principal reasons for the club’s recent decline. Many media outlets have reported that veteran players routinely asked the previous board for bumper pay increases and were generally awarded, leaving the salary-turnover ratio at unhealthy levels. 

Laporta told reporters that the salary bill now represents 103% of the club’s income, even after the departure of the club’s previous highest earner and legendary former player, Leo Messi.

“It's what the experts call the ‘inverted pyramid,’ where veterans have long contracts and young players have short ones, and that makes it very difficult to renegotiate contracts," the club president lamented. 

"The sports payroll is €617 million, between 25% and 30% more than our competitors."

"There was a modus operandi to bypass the club's internal controls, split invoices as in the case of I3 Ventures, or go through the Assembly,” Laporta claimed, adding that the same methods of subverting protocol were also used for Espai Barça and in the Departments of Marketing and Computer Science.

The president also took aim at the recruitment of the previous board, saying they received €222 million euros for Neymar and “spent it at the speed of light and disproportionately. Now we find ourselves with skyrocketing salaries and amortisations."

"We'll have to change the model and invest in La Masia (the Barcelona academy), making more proportionate investments with more sporting logic."

Last week, Bartomeu sent a public letter to Laporta in which he defended his position and decisions, arguing that his mandate left the club in a healthy position and that he did not have the chance to undertake the planned salary cuts that would have improved the financial situation. 

Laporta responded on Monday that the letter was full of “complete lies” and claimed the players did not want to speak with Bartomeu about said planned salary cuts. 

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  • FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta during a press conference (REUTERS/Albert Gea)

  • FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta during a press conference (REUTERS/Albert Gea)

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