Barcelona president, Josep Maria Bartomeu has resigned on Tuesday rather than await a fans’ vote of confidence in his future at the club.
The rest of the board of directors has stepped down alongside Bartomeu, and an election will be scheduled within the next 90 days to appoint a new president.
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“It’s a thought-out, serene, informed decision” to resign, Bartomeu said in a televised speech.
A temporary management board will oversee the day-to-day running of the club until a new executive board is appointed.
Bartomeu opted to leave rather than ask club members to vote on his future after a debate with local government in Catalonia on whether voting in person would be safe in the current pandemic.
More than 20,000 supporters signed a petition this month for him to be removed as president after growing increasingly upset with his management of the club.
That triggered a referendum on Bartomeu’s position at the club. However, a vote is no longer necessary.
Victor Font, Joan Laporta and Jordi Roche are some of the candidates expected to run in an election to decide Bartomeu’s successor.
Bartomeu, 57, replaced Sandro Rosell as president in 2014. He had previously been vice president to Rosell, who stepped down after a lawsuit was filed accusing him of hiding the real cost of the Neymar transfer.
Following the Treble under Luis Enrique, Bartomeu was re-elected on a new six-year mandate in 2015.
However, his popularity has decreased over the past five years, with problems off the pitch eventually dragging down performances on the pitch.
Last season was Barca’s first campaign without a trophy since 2007-08, and earlier this month the club announced losses for the 2019-20 season of €97 million, although it was largely a consequence of the financial strains relating to the coronavirus pandemic.
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Cracks emerged between Bartomeu and the players, particularly Lionel Messi.
Bartomeu stood firm when Messi wanted to leave Barca this past summer, with the forward accusing him of lying and then criticizing Bartomeu’s running of the club when he announced that he would stay rather than pursue legal action to force a move away from Camp Nou.
“The easiest thing after the Champions [League defeat to Bayern Munich] was to resign, but one had to take decisions amid an unprecedented global crisis,” Bartomeu said, adding that later on, in the wake of the Messi spat, he could not let the club be run by external, temporary figures.
“Who would have ensured that Messi stayed? Who would have hired a new coach?” said Bartomeu, who took over at Barcelona from Sandro Rosell in 2014.
Gerard Pique was also critical of Bartomeu in a recent interview. The defender said it was an “atrocity” that money had been spent by the club on a smear campaign on social media against current and former players. The scandal became known as Barcagate.
Bartomeu and the club say they were unaware of the posts, and an external audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers exonerated them, although a police investigation is ongoing.
In April, six board members resigned, citing disagreements over how the club was being run by Bartomeu.
Despite the discontent among supporters and players, Bartomeu had hoped to see out his mandate, which ran until 2021. An election had been scheduled for March, but as a result of his early departure, it will now be fast-tracked.
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