In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has spoken to SPORT about the decision to cut wages at the club and the financial repercussions of the health crisis.
What's your opinion of the players' stance during the negotiations to temporarily reduce their wages?
The agreement is a demonstration of their commitment to the club. We have to thank them for it, but also the coaches and the rest of the professional teams: basketball, fubtol sala, handball, hockey, the women's team, Barça B and the U19s.
Why did it take so long?
It's not easy to reach an agreement when you can't meet each other... You will have to ask them. But it's not important. What is important is that there is an agreement. On March 20, we proposed a 70 percent reduction and they have said yes.
How were the negotiations?
They started with a video conference and after there were calls, Whatsapps with the captains and others. They were willing to do this from the off. They were in agreement but we would have done the same regardless, with or without their agreement.
But it wasn't straight forward...
From the first moment we sat down with the players, they were committed to doing this with the club. They have proven that. I wanted it to be a mutual agreement, not imposed. We could do an ERTE without permission but that would take days. It's better to have a pact. I am delighted that's the case.
Did you speak with Messi?
Of course. (Sunday night) was the last time. From the first minute, he said we have to do this. The commitment to the employees and paying their salaries came from the captains. The club were going to make up a part of their salary and the proposed to pay the rest.
How will it all work?
The players will reduce their monthly salaries by 70 percent and add another two percent to help pay the non-sporting employees. Barça were going to pay part of their salary but the players will make it up to 100 percent. The players will lose 5.75 percent of their annual earnings during every month of the State of Emergency. The club will save 14 million euros from football and two million from the other teams. It's 16 million euros per month during the State of Emergency in Spain.
How did you take the criticism of the club in the players' statement?
We've been speaking since March 20, that's 10 days of constant dialogue. There was a lot of noise and people in and outside the club commenting without really knowing the reality. Maybe that's what annoyed the players. But the negotiations were carried out by (CEO) Oscar Grau and I. And I have not spoken until now.
Was it aimed at you? The board?
I didn't interpret it in that way. You will have to ask them. There are a lot of people at the club.
Did you put pressure on the players?
No. It's also a lie that I pressured (basketball) player Mirotic. I only called Niko to thank him.
Why 70 percent?
It's the amount we felt adequate. They are still working from home, 30 percent at home, 70 percent for what they cannot do on the pitch.
How much will Barça lose due to coronavirus?
It depends how long it lasts. Since March 14, we have not been making money. We're not selling tickets, the schools are closed, there are no games, nothing. Now we're trying to manage the outgoings we have. When we open again, we will see how much we have not earned. The sporting measures were the first we wanted to make. Now there are others because it's not enough to compensate for what is not coming in. There will be more talks, projects will be delayed...
Is the club in danger?
No. Not at all. No club in the world earns more. We're different to other clubs that only have ticketing or television rights. We have the schools, the museum... the stoppage hits u more than others but we will also be quicker to get back on track. Barça have done the same as many clubs with the players: Bayern, Juventus, Lyon, Atletico... and many more will follow.
Is the club well managed?
The predicted revenue for this season was 1 billion euros and we were flying in February, ahead of predictions. Barcelona will continue to be the biggest earning football club. All clubs have a drop in income right now and we're working quickly to act on that because it was necessary.
How will it all affect future signings?
I predict there will be less money in the transfer market and (clubs) will have to do player swap deals.
Has the budget dropped for signings?
The club generates an EBIDTA and that will allow us to sign. The important thing is to have a strong team and the resources are in place for that. Maybe there will be less money, but we will sign good players.
What's the calendar for getting back to normality?
The sooner the better. The scenario we're working on now is to play games before June 30 and for competitions to finish in July or August. We don't have a problem with that. What we don't want is games behund closed doors or every 48 hours.
And if they force you behind closed doors?
They will have to force us. We want to play with fans. Euro 2020 and the Copa America have been suspended to make space in the summer.
When will the players get a holiday?
When the State of Emergency ends, then we will decide. It could be immediately. Or at the end of the season and before the next. If it's now, next season would start immediately after this one ends.