Barcelona board in crisis: the anatomy of an institutional 'coronavirus'

Bartomeu wants four of his directors to step down as internal politics kick off

 Bartomeu y el resto de directivos del Barcelona llegaban así a la comida con el Real Madrid | Albert Rogé

The coronavirus is not just a pandemic, it has also accelerated an institutional crisis. At Barcelona, it's already led to wage reductions, another standoff between the board and the players and, as of Tuesday night, it's revealed deep fractures within the board, too. 

This time things have been brutal but also controlled, because it was the president Josep Maria Bartomeu that made the decision on Tuesday to call Emili Rousaud and Enrique Tombas, two of the club's vice presidents, to ask them to resign, in addition to vocal directors Silvio Elías and Josep Pont, who Bartomeu called on Wednesday. 

Bartomeu communicated to Rousaud and Tombas that he was canceling the board meeting scheduled for the same day and gave them two hours to think about what they wanted to do. He's still not had an answer, although SPORT have learned that two of the four affected have decided to present their resignations in the coming days. 

In any case, whether they go or not (remember the president can't sack his directors), Rousaud and Tombas will be removed from their roles as vice presidents and given lesser, irrelevant titles. Sources close to those affected revealed the conversation between Bartomeu and Rousaud was "very tense" because the latter asked the president why he had decided to demote them. Bartomeu responded by saying he felt betrayed by his underground movements. 

RISK 

Bartomeu accused the two vice presidents of being disloyal during the Barçagate scandal when they suggested elections be brought forward a year, of planning to overthrow him and of taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis and the ERTE (temporary reduction of work action for the club's staff) to try and weakened his position. Bartomeu argued he needed cohesion among his team and loyalty to get through the final year of his mandate, something he felt would not be possible with the belligerent attitude of the four men he has singled out. Bartomeu took the initiative knowing it was high risk but convinced defence is the best form of attack -- and that he had to make a move before they did. 

Rousaud soon responded, appearing in the local media on Wednesday, saying that "at the moment I'm not planning to resign." He added that the president's call was not "very brave" and suggested the current board has no credibility. He said the club's financial situation is "complicated" and admitted that he would like to be president one day. 

The figure of Rousaud seems like one of those kaleidoscopic products that can only be produced at such a convoluted and contradictory club like Barça: in just a few weeks he has gone from being the possible heir to Bartomeu on the current board to leading the campaign against the current president. 

At the moment, Rousaud looks ready to be the leader of the internal opposition and to put pressure on Bartomeu and make him uncomfortable. 

TOMBAS, INDIGNADO

For now, Tombas, who is still the economic vice president, is thinking about his next move, but those close to him explain Tombas, a very prudent and resistant speaker when it comes to the media, is furious with Bartomeu because he believes the accusations are unfair and out of tone.

Pont and Elías, the other two directors in the picture, could resign of their own free will. SPORT has learned that at the moment there is a group of two or three other directors that are also considering stepping down after witnessing with astonishment a "self-inflicted" crisis which they consider is now "out of control." 

Meanwhile, Bartomeu is preparing his next move: he will maintain Jordi Caronder as his vice president, will replace Tombas with Jordi Moix and will make David Bellber, who is very close to ex-president Sandro Rosell, the treasurer. 

In any case, the crisis is going nowhere at least until Bartomeu makes his next appointments. The 'Blaugrana coronavirus' has many more episodes to run. 

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