Sports 12/04/2021

Laporta takes the fight to the offices

Despite indignation over refereeing in 'el clásico', the board will not make any statements and maintains a policy of improving relations with all spheres

4 min
The president Joan Laporta, in the foreground, and vice president Rafael Yuste arriving Saturday in Madrid.

BarcelonaIn the last act of the campaign, in the Verneda, Joan Laporta gained the complicity of the public that filled the stands when promising that, if he was president, he would make Barça respected again. "I have already asked for a place in all the commissions. We have to be there. One of the first things I will do is ask how VAR works, because I only see that it favours Madrid," he said in his speech. The response was a loud and long ovation. "I don't want them to give us anything. We'll earn it on the pitch. But I don't want them to take it away from us either". A month later, it is up to the new board to put the plan into practice. But, as they admit, none of this can be done overnight: "Everything takes time."

A day after 'el clásico', Barça board of directors did not hide their dissatisfaction with the referee's performance: they claimed up to three possible penalties in favour of Barça that neither the referee nor VAR wanted to point out. As well as with the decision to add only four minutes to a second half in which the referee, who had problems with the intercom, wasted at least three. The conversations in corridors were heated, and on the return trip reproaches towards the refereeing establishment built up. Before, just at the end of the match, coach Ronald Koeman harshly criticised Gil Manzano - "I am angry and disappointed, it was a clear penalty" - and Gerard Piqué went down the pitch to reproach the referee his decisions - which cost him a yellow card, once they were in the tunnel, while Sergi Roberto described as "incomprehensible" that he had refused to review the plays on VAR. But that was the end of the story.

Turning the page on 'el clásico'

In the upper echelons of the club it was decided to turn the page on 'el clásico' and forget about the controversial actions. At least, in public. "It does not serve much to make statements of protest or be all week making statements or insinuations. They are toasts to the sun. If you want to solve something, you have to go directly to the authorities," explains one of the sources consulted. Therefore, letters will not be sent to the League or the Spanish Federation protesting the referees. But the subject will be treated, with discretion, when the president speaks with those in charge of pulling the strings. So, behind are statements like those he made at the last campaign rally, or as when Laporta said that "even a Martian" knew that VAR helped Real Madrid. "The situation has changed. Now he is president. It is time to do things differently, with common sense. The words were fine, but now he has the authority to do things," explain sources close to the Barcelona lawyer.

It is not about getting refereeing favors, but to balance the scales. "It must be acknowledged that Barça and Madrid are two clubs that, in general, cannot complain much about the referees. But it has reached a point where the difference between Barça and Madrid is scandalous," they say at the Ciutat Esportiva, where they do not forget the treatment received by Madrid at the end of last season, in which it came from behind in the table - when the competition resumed - and ended up taking the league title. The recipe they have in mind in the offices of the Camp Nou is, more or less, the same as Laporta had already used in his first stage at the head of the club. Alfons Godall, a member of that board (2003-2010), had defended and defends that the key to everything was "good relations" at all levels. Being present, have a say and vote and be seen as an ally who cares about the business. The thing is, current directors acknowledge, that "you cannot solve everything in a month.

At the moment, Joan Laporta has already begun to weave his network of complicities occupying a place on the board of the Spanish Federation, which corresponds to him as president of Barça. A seat that was vacant since Josep Maria Barotmeu presented his resignation at the end of October. In this first month as president, he has also been gone to La Liga offices, established contact with UEFA and ECA. And, outside of football, he has also been active in political circles. The day of the inauguration, for example, he invited the authorities - Generalitat, Barcelona City Council ... - to the Camp Nou. And yesterday he received the new president of the Superior Council of Sports (CSD). "The conversation has been absolutely cordial, and the most important thing is that a spirit of collaboration between the CSD and Barça has been born", said José Manuel Franco, who took over from Irene Lozano on 31 March. Yesterday he visited the Camp Nou facilities and received a souvenir azulgrana shirt from the hands of the azulgrana president.

"He makes himself respected"

Those who know Laporta well assure that he is a president "who makes himself respected" in offices and that "he has always had good treatment" with the personalities that govern the world of football and sport, in general. Time will tell if this formula that served him in his first stage is also successful in his second term.