Sports 30/04/2021

Laporta's board detects waste of resources at Espai Barça

The club has dedicated 109 million to the project, 29 of which in the last year

4 min
The Camp Nou could regain the public in the coming weeks

BarcelonaIn parallel to the sporting outcome of the season, the board and the new Barça executives are focusing on the management of the coming seasons, marked by the effects of the pandemic, the drop in income and a skyrocketing debt. All these factors are being collected in the audit that the new board commissioned shortly after taking office to portray the economic situation of the club. The results of this exhaustive study are expected to be released internally at the end of May and will be presented to the members at the first assembly of committed members to be held since the beginning of the pandemic, probably during the month of June. However, the CEO of the club, Ferran Reverter, and the rest of the new Barça officials already know that the season will end with a loss of more than 350 million euros, which means that they will have to be extremely cautious when negotiating, for example, Leo Messi's new contract, or the signing of Haaland or Neymar.

The picture that the economic vice president of Barça, Eduard Romeu, will have to defend in the assembly will differ significantly from the forecast that the board of Josep Maria Bartomeu made before resigning, with a budget of 828 million - on which the endorsement of the candidates was calculated - and a minimum profit of one million. The previous board projected the accounts for this season thinking that the audience would return to the stadiums in February, that the first team would reach at least the quarterfinals of the Champions League, and that it would recover ground in basic generators of treasury as the sale of shirts and guided tours to the guts of the Camp Nou, but none of these three sections has lightened the crisis. Nor have there been departures: Coutinho's knee injury thwarted one of the few ways there were to release wage bill. Against this background, the rain of millions that the Super League promised would have gone very well. In return, as reported by Bloomberg, Barça has managed to space the payment of the bonds that Bartomeu issued in 2018 worth 200 million. It has also received part of the television rights committed for the coming season.

Espai Barça model

The aim of the due diligence commissioned by Laporta is to make a detailed diagnosis of the situation in which the institution finds itself and how the money has been spent in the different areas of management, including the Espai Barça. As ARA has learned, the audit has uncovered some doubts about the investments that have been made in recent years to completely remodel the Camp Nou and build a new Palau Blaugrana and the Johan Cruyff stadium. According to the contents of the latest financial report, Barça have invested 109 million since the project was approved by referendum on 5 April 2014, 29.2 million of which during the 2019/2020 financial year. "Investments have been mainly concentrated on carrying out preliminary works in the Les Corts area and other investments aimed at complying with the requirements established in the modification of the general metropolitan plan", the dossier attached to the latest closing of accounts states. But the sources consulted note that the club would have paid too much money for certain works. Specifically, and taking into account the nature of the work carried out, they calculate that the market price should have been around 50 million and not the 109 million that has been spent so far.

A key assembly for Barça's future

The study does not question that the Johan Cruyff stadium, that for now is the only inaugurated part of the Espai Barça, has cost 12 million. However, it does not understand why, for example, the director of heritage that Bartomeu incorporated in 2014, William T. Mannarelli, allocated around 120,000 euros a month to hire external specialists to evaluate a project that was awarded in 2016 to the Japanese firm Nikken Sekkei in collaboration with the Catalans Pascual and Ausió Arquitectes, who then jumped out of the agreement. For the moment, Mannarelli maintains his salary and position in Barça, but the institution has already given orders to review the emoluments of five "or six professionals" who were paid for consulting tasks aimed, among other things, to guide the business plan of a stadium that, being very optimistic, will be reinaugurated in three years. The audit is not yet finished, but it is already concluding that there may have been a waste of resources at the beginning of the most ambitious heritage project in the history of Barça. An initiative that in 2014 had to cost 600 million and now already rises above 815, including funding from Goldman Sachs, an investment bank that has already advanced 90 million.

The small print of the Espai Barça will be read at the assembly scheduled for the end of the academic year, in which the members will be asked to approve that the salary deferral of the first team players will count as losses for the current season, information that L'Esportiu advanced on Wednesday. The board is also considering voting on a revision of the statutes to relax the debt ceiling - something Bartomeu failed to achieve - and even extend the legitimacy of the board in the event of more than two consecutive years in the red.