Voting in the Barcelona presidential elections closed Saturday night with incumbent Josep Maria Bartomeu claiming a comfortable victory.
The 52-year-old Bartomeu, who took over as president early last year after his predecessor Sandro Rosell stepped down, will lead the reigning Spanish and European champions for the next six years after garnering 54.63 per cent of the votes cast.
Polls opened at 09:00 local time with almost 110,000 members entitled to vote. However, the actual turnout was 47,720 or around 43.1 per cent.
Barcelona, just like their rivals Real Madrid but in contrast to other leading European clubs, are owned by their members – of whom there are more than 150,000 in total – and elections are usually held every six years.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) July 19, 2015
However, this election was called a year early by Bartomeu at a time when tensions inside the club were running high because of poor relations between Barca coach Luis Enrique and star player Lionel Messi – something that was remedied when they won the treble of Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey in the spring.
The team’s success on the field and the club’s success off it, with Barcelona returning a record profit of €608 million (Dh2.4bn), meant Bartomeu didn’t face any serious threat from main rival Joan Laporta, a former president.
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Laporta only managed to attract 33.03 per cent of the votes while the other two hopefuls in the race – businessman Agusti Benedito and lawyer and former club spokesman Toni Freixa ended up with 7.16 and 3.7 per cent of the votes respectively.
“We must continue to be the number one club and these six years are very important,” Bartomeu said after casting his vote yesterday.
Laporta was in charge from 2003-10 and has to his credit that he appointed Pep Guardiola to the coaching job in 2008 – a decision which sparked a trophy-laden spell of success – although his financial record has been criticised.
Laporta had earlier attacked Bartomeu for standing despite facing criminal charges along with Rosell.
“We must continue to be the number one club” – Bartomeu
“We have two men, Mr Bartomeu and (his predecessor Sandro) Rosell, who are being pursued for corruption…if they had a minimum of decency they would not stand,” Laporta had said.
Rosell, a former ally of Laporta’s before the two fell out in 2005, resigned last year when investigations began into alleged misappropriation of funds in the signing of Neymar. Bartomeu, who had been the vice-president, stepped up to replace Rosell but in May a court ordered him to stand trial along with the club in the Neymar case.
Barcelona are currently serving a FIFA-imposed transfer ban that means any new signings cannot play for the club until 2016.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) July 18, 2015