Slow-burning campaign and with 20,000 votes requested with a month to go
Laporta manages the role of front-runner, Font demands debates and Freixa slings mud on social networks
BarcelonaBarça will finally have a president in a month's time. Joan Laporta, Víctor Font or Toni Freixa, one of the three, will take the reins of the club 133 days after the resignation of Josep Maria Bartomeu. The race has been long and exhausting for culés, who on the day of the elections will have spent a full year away from the Camp Nou (the last game with a crowd at the stadium was on March 7, 2020 against Real Sociedad) and have only been able to express themselves voting to censor the last president or in favour of their favourite pre-candidate. The wait will be long also for journalists, communicators and analysts who comment on azulgrana current affairs at the chaotic Barça HQ. But the fight above all will be exhausting for the three candidates, who have had to revise strategies and redouble physical and economic efforts after the elections were postponed from January 24 to March 7 due to covid and the inaction of Carles Tusquets's management to adapt the electoral process to the mobility restrictions.
Yoga and mindfulness for the club's workers
Four weeks before the ballot boxes are placed in Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, Tarragona, Tortosa and Andorra, Laporta, who confirmed his role as front-runner when he presented over 10,000 signatures of support, is the only one that still has to present important parts of his programme. In the coming days, he will present a monograph on the Espai Barça, a project that he likes except for the funding side, and another talk on the sections. The juiciest letter for club members, the one regarding football, will be saved (after two postponements) until February 25, the day before the close of the postal vote. In the meantime there will be rumours about Mateu Alemany, whom he has praised in interviews, or Marc Overmars, who will not renew as Ajax's sporting director. The two are candidates to lead management in case of election victory of the former president, who for now has simply reiterated his support for Ronald Koeman and has been very confident that Leo Messi will stay. He is reluctant to destabilise the team with names at the gates of the decisive stretch of the season.
Of the three candidates, Laporta was the last to be presented and the only one who still has threads to stretch. On the other hand, he has been the first to meet with Barça staff, over 600 employees of which more than half were already at the institution in his time as president (2003-2010). The online meeting took place on Monday morning and lasted more than an hour and a half, including questions from the assistants, some of them on furlough, and the interventions of the candidate, that announced that, should he win the elections, he will stop the externalisation of the assets that Barça Licensing & Merchandising (BLM), the company that Bartomeu founded to control shops, manages. He also hinted at the possibility of outsourcing Barça Studios, the entity that centralises the entire audiovisual production of the club, and advanced changes to eliminate internal bureaucracy for certain decisions. On another note, he explained that will schedule sessions of yoga and mindfulness for all employees who want it.
"I have now managed to bring together an incredible team".
Whilst Laporta met with the workers of Barça, Víctor Font attended was on RAC1 radio station. The businessman, who collected 4,710 signatures in pre-campaign, has already presented all the strengths of his programme, with Xavi Hernandez and Jordi Cruyff managing the sports area, the journalist Antoni Bassas as his right-hand man and a number of entrepreneurs from Catalan start-ups to drive the search for new revenue streams, among other announcements. The last few days has staged a commitment before a notary not to convert the club into a limited company and plans to continue to provide details of the "new fire" that he wants to take to the club. He even did not rule out that Xavi and Jordi give a public step forward to back his candidacy. However, what is clear is that he wants to "confront projects". "We have been candidates for a month and we have not yet had any debate," said Font, who hinted that he would not return to the electoral arena in case of defeat on March 7: "A priori I will not return. It is now that I have managed to bring together this team to serve the club at this important moment in its history.
Meanwhile, Toni Freixa, convinced of his impact among members who are against Catalan independence and are nostalgic of Núñez and Rosell's presidencies, based his strategy on online chats with potential voters, animation groups and the support of some of his backers, such as Lluís Carreras or Ramon Artigas. He also had online arguments with famous Laporta supporters, such as Xavier Sala-i-Martin, who insinuated that he had bought signatures to be a candidate, or Pilar Rahola, who criticises him for feeling Spanish. "As long as these people continue to provoke, we are doing well," he said two days ago in relation to these comments. Likewise, the former Barça spokesman was accused of manipulating the results of a Twitter poll on the channel Esports3 in which he beat the other two contenders by a landslide.
Be that as it may, with Messi still to decide his future and the team in the middle of various competitions, the electoral race will be a slow burner until the vote. A process marked by the pandemic and the novelty of the postal vote, which on Tuesday was requested by 20,000 applicants, a figure that hints at historic levels of participation. Will Laporta "return hope to Barcelonismo"? Will Font ignite his own "new fire"? What real impact will the outsider Freixa have in number of votes? On March 7, after many long days of waiting, the we will have the answers.