Barcelona takes legal action against former vice-president

(by Silvestre Szpylma/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

FC Barcelona has said it will take criminal action against Emili Rousaud, the former vice-president who last week accused the Spanish LaLiga football club of corruption connected to a partnership with digital consultancy company i3 Ventures.

Rousaud last week hit the headlines, questioning the nature of the relationship after becoming one of six board members to resign in protest at the way the club is being run. “The issue of the social media is dirty,” Rousaud claimed on Catalan radio station RAC-1. “I believe someone had his or her hand in the till.”

The so-called “Barca-gate” scandal has developed after Barcelona allegedly paid a third party – i3 Ventures – to set up social media accounts which defended president Josep Maria Bartomeu and smeared some players, potential presidents, and club legends. The club and i3 Ventures have strongly denied the accusations while consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers have been hired to look into the claims.

Rousaud claimed in multiple interviews that almost €1m ($1.1m) was paid for a service that at normal market rates should have cost 10 per cent of that figure. In a statement released following a board meeting yesterday (Monday), Barcelona said: “In the face of grave and unfounded allegations made by Mr Emili Rousaud, the club’s former vice-president, in a number of media interviews, the board of directors categorically denies any action that could be described as corruption and have agreed to bring the corresponding criminal action accordingly.

“FC Barcelona cannot tolerate allegations that seriously damage the institution’s image. The criminal action to be taken is in defence of the honour of the club and its employees. The existence of an ongoing audit must put an end to this matter.

“In this regard, the board wishes to emphasise that in the light of these allegations, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), the company in charge of conducting the audit on the monitoring services of social networks contracted by the club, have reiterated that its work is still ongoing and, therefore, is without any provisional or definitive conclusions.

“PWC also said that the audit could not be completed because the current State of Alarm as a result of Covid-19 has had an impact on the development of certain analytical procedures, insofar as they are procedures that must be carried out in person, and that the different lines of research that they have defined in their work have to be able to be carried out with full access to all the documentation and all the information sources requested at the club.”

Monday’s meeting also reshaped Barcelona’s board of directors following last week’s mass resignations. At the proposal of Bartomeu, the board has approved the appointment of Jordi Moix, as vice-president for economic and equity; Pau Vilanova, as institutional vice-president; Oriol Tomàs, as vice-president of the commercial area; Marta Plana, as secretary of the board of directors; and David Bellver, as treasurer.

Barcelona added: “The remodelling of the board of directors aims to not only set a new plan to overcome the consequences of the health crisis we are experiencing, but also to complete all the priority actions corresponding to the governing programme started in 2010 and the Strategic Plan 2015-2021. These are very demanding challenges, and they are of extraordinary importance for the present and for the future of the institution.

“The board considers that now, more than ever, everyone needs to be focused on these challenges and, beyond the internal debate that will always have to be in a collegiate governing body, it is imperative to generate a very solid consensus on the time to agree on all the measures that must be implemented during this period.”