Barça has a revenue problem

Laporta's board is cutting spending, but has not yet managed to close any big commercial deals, which would point the finger to the main executives in charge

3 min
Panoramic view of Camp Nou.

BarcelonaDuring Josep Maria Bartomeu's tenure, Barça achieved significant growth in revenue and reached an all-time high of €990m during the 2018-2019 season. The big problem was that expenses also skyrocketed, mainly because of the exorbitant increase in the wage bill. The pandemic, which led to the closure of Camp Nou for over a year, ended up leading the club in a dire economic situation: debt peaked at €1.1bn during the 2020-2021 season. Now Barça is achieving, with the help of Joan Laporta's board of directors, a significant reduction in the wage bill. However, they are finding it harder to recover the levels of revenue, which last season stood at €631m.

Barça has recovered part of the money thanks to crowds going back to the stadiums and courts to watch the club's teams. Even so, it has not yet managed to close any major commercial deals to add new sources of financing. The possibility of selling 49% of Barça Studios, which was approved by shareholders, has not yet happened and, as explained by ARA, the club will only accept money from LaLiga's deal with CVC if the income counts as capital instead of debt. The other way for the club to obtain a large sum of money is through sponsorship. In this area, negotiations are underway to close a deal with Spotify, which, if all goes well, will become the new sponsor for the front of the men's and women's jerseys, training wear and title rights for the Camp Nou for an annual figure of between €70m and €75m, including variables based on sporting performance.

"In the commercial department there is nervousness because Spotify has not yet returned the signed agreement. The problem is the high level of expectations that has been generated, but you have to take into account how slow approval processes are for this kind of contract, in which you have to go clause by clause," a club source explains. Beyond Spotify, no other sponsorship deals are on the horizon. Barça currently has 29 sponsors, down from 42 in 2019. In addition, some, such as Rakuten and Beko, have already said they will not continue beyond June 30, 2022, and others, such as Stanley, which also ends its contract this summer, is certain to lose assets. In any case, the club does not rule out the possibility that the North American brand could continue as a global sponsor despite not being on the front of the women's jersey.

Àlex Barbany, questioned

All this means that income has stayed stagnant. And director of new revenues Àlex Barbany, who arrived under Joan Laporta after his active participation in his campaign, has been singled out. In fact, he was originally mooted as CEO before Ferran Reverter appeared. But it has been months since both the president and Reverter, who has not set foot in the club's offices since announcing his resignation on February 8, have lost confidence in Barbany. So much so that in the days before Christmas, club sources took it for granted that he would be dismissed. Then, however, a decision was made to keep him on, as he is was leading negotiations with Spotify.

Apart from the fact that the desired inflows of new revenue are not being achieved, Barbany's behaviour has not always been appreciated within the club. This includes his poor relationship with the 80 staff that work under him and the fact that he drives his Maserati to work while other directors and senior executives do so with Cupra cars, as stipulated by the contract with the club's sponsor.

Goldman Sachs at the presentation of 'Matchday'

At the press showing of Matchday: Queens of the pitch, the series dedicated to Barça women's successful 2020-2021 season, the director of professional sports, Xavier Budó, reported that "the club has noticed a growing interest in the team from potential sponsors that will probably materialise shortly." This, according to the executive, "will allow us to invest more in grassroots football, creating more women's football teams, and provide more structure to the first team". But sources familiar with Barça's sponsorship situation are not so optimistic. "There is nothing else," one of them says. "Nothing beyond Spotify. The rest is smoke," says another. On the other hand, a third source explains that "on the horizon there are several sponsorships with the female team, they are being negotiated".

The gala presentation of the series that took place on the same day, February 25, at the Palau de la Música Catalana was attended by many Catalan and Barça personalities. Some attendees, however, stood out more than others. There was a representative of Goldman Sachs, with which Barça is negotiating a €1.5bn loan to finance the stadium revamp Espai Barça. The American investment bank "wanted to get first-hand knowledge of the club's situation after Reverter's resignation when he returned from negotiating with them in the United States," an important Barça official explains.