Sports 20/04/2021

Laporta buys Bartomeu's Super League

Sceptical during the campaign, the president has ended backing a proposal negotiated by the previous management

3 min
The presidents of Real Madrid, Florentino Perez and Barça, Joan Laporta to the box of the Alfredo di Stéfano stadium during the match of Laliga that faced their teams on April 10

BarcelonaThe day Josep Maria Bartomeu announced his resignation, and in the middle of a speech lasting almost half an hour, he reported that the board had decided on his last day in office "to accept the conditions to participate in the European Super League". A sentence that was totally overshadowed because the interest that day was elsewhere. Half a year later, and now under the leadership of Joan Laporta, Barça, as one of the founding clubs, formally announced the creation of this competition that will revolutionise European football and, as a consequence, shake up world football.

The project began to take shape in the 2016/17 season, with "very discreet" conversations between the clubs involved. Bartomeu, who had just won the elections, was "one of those who made an effort" to make it possible, says Xavi Vilajoana, then director of the club, to ARA. The idea is taking shape and everything is accelerated with the pandemic and the urgent need to find money. "It is true that there is an important economic variable, but it is not only this. It was a demand from the fans," he added. Through the Observatori Blaugrana, the board was carrying out surveys in which they asked members about a hypothetical European competition with the best. The response was positive. A few years later, members have known the league was not so hypothetical. "We have worked with the utmost discretion".

In any case, the Super League, or the option of transferring to football the successful model that had worked in basketball's Euroleague, had been on the table for years. And it was a proposal that Laporta already saw as "very interesting" in the 2003/04 season, his first as Barça president. Without going any further, in the documentary FCB Confidential he is seen talking openly about it with Augusto César Lendoiro, then president of a Deportivo that at the time could have aspired to be one of the invited clubs. Today the Galicians are in the second division.

Laporta, critical in the campaign

Although it was done discreetly, it was public knowledge that the big clubs were behind this idea and that is why the issue was discussed in the campaign and Laporta was critical of this proposal. He went so far as to say that it could "destroy the business of football" and the "essence" of the sport. Today, once in the box of the Camp Nou, the vision is different: "There has not been a change of criterion, we always said we would have to see what it was," board members say. The club does not want to make public statements and refers to the joint statement issued by all founding clubs.

Bartomeu's board left the project almost finished, but "the details" remained. "In recent weeks there have been very intense talks," club sources explain. More specifically, "format concepts have been modified". But that's not all. "There is still a lot of work to be done before the first game of the Super League is played," they say. The project was prepared quietly and the intention of Barça's new management is to avoid making a fuss and staying in the background, at least at media level. "Everything will be explained when the time comes".

The assembly doubts

The last point that remains pending relates to the assembly: its approval may be necessary. The statutes do not specify the competitions which the club plays in. The current board are inclined to believe it would not be necessary, although they have asked for legal advice to decide. On the other hand, Vilajoana insists that it is obligatory, because it is about the creation and the integration of a new association of clubs. As a precedent, when the Barça joined the basketball Euroleague, now two decades ago, the decision was made without the assembly's backing.