The turmoil surrounding Barcelona has forced club president Josep Maria Bartomeu to call presidential elections for the end of the season, a year earlier than scheduled.
Bartomeu was elevated into his current position a year ago when previous president Sandro Rosell was forced to resign in the aftermath of allegations that the Catalan club had attempted to evade tax during the transfer of Brazilian star Neymar.
Since then the club has continued to be involved in a series of controversies, notably a year-long transfer ban from FIFA after
being found guilty of transgressing regulations on the signing of players aged under 18 from outside the European Union.
Bartomeu’s unpopularity with supporters was painfully evident when he was loudly jeered at the Nou Camp during a video tribute
to Lionel Messi after the Argentine star broke the Spanish goalscoring record last month, and the team’s tribulations under under-fire boss Luis Enrique has further contributed to a growing sense of unease.
Although the current board was due to serve until 2016 following Rosell’s election in 2010, Bartomeu has relented to public pressure and he announced yesterday that the club’s 150,000 members will have the chance to vote for a new president
Despite Bartomeu’s claim that he has taken the decision to “ease the pressure that is surrounding the club”, the next few months are sure to be dominated by endless speculationover the identity of the winner.
Bartomeu confirmed that he will stand for re-election, but he is expected to face strong opposition from previous incumbent Joan
Laporta, who served as president between 2003 and 2010 before losing the most recent election to former ally but current sworn
Another hot topic addressed by Bartomeu was this week’s sacking of sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, the former Barca and Spain goalkeeper whose departure led immediately to the resignation of one of his assistants and club legend Carles Puyol.
Bartomeu insisted his decision to fire Zubizarreta was taken for a number of reasons rather than as a response to the FIFA transfer ban, saying: “Our confidence had deteriorated. We are now looking for his replacement. The new sporting director has to know this club, our way of playing.”
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