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Idealist fanboys of FC Barcelona (ahem) are prone to wax romantic (ahem ahem) about the Catalan club’s remarkable structure. Collectively owned by tens of thousands of dues-paying members, FCB is controlled by an elected president and board. While the Green Bay Packers can claim community ownership, and certain Johnny-come-lately teams based on Astroturf in more ways than one are using watered-down versions, nothing in American sports quite replicates Barcelona’s democratic ideal.
Then you read something like this bizarre tale of Keystone Kops intrigue, and you think that may be a good thing. Even as the club (well, it’s more than a club, you know—next time you find yourself trapped by an American Barca fan, back away before he or she can unleash his/her pedantic discussion of Catalan identity in the Franco Era) continues to play its scintillating Art Football, the boardroom has descended into a comedic pit of vipers. Joan LaPorta—spymaster?
On Thursday, the Catalan newspaper El Periódico revealed that Barcelona’s director general Joan Oliver had organised €56,000 (£52,000) worth of surveillance on vice-presidents Jaume Ferrer, Joan Boix, Rafael Yuste and Joan Franquesa. The reason, Oliver insisted the following day, was simple: Franquesa had confessed to him that he felt like he was being watched, so Oliver decided to help him out by having him put under surveillance. Oh, and by throwing three other vice-presidents into the mix for good measure. There was no espionage; it was in fact a “security audit” carried out for their “protection” – one that Laporta didn’t even know about until after it had been completed, some five months ago. It was for all their “own good”.
Of course it was. And it was nothing to do with the fact that next summer Laporta’s presidential term will come to an end, that all four men, backed by other board members, are in line to replace him on a continuity ticket; with Laporta wanting to be able to control whoever takes over after his departure; with the fact that the other man who looks well placed to take over is Laporta’s current favourite – the ridiculous-jacket-wearing director Xavier Sala-i-Martin; or with the fact that Sala-i-Martin just happens to be one of Oliver’s business partners.
Well, you can’t say it’s boring.