Sunday, July 19, 2015

Democracy and soccer

Yesterday the members of FC Barcelona, the soccer (and multisport) club, elected their president in a one member-one vote election. Almost 50.000 people approached the club’s facilities to vote for one of the four candidates who had made the final cut. In most other clubs in the world, the top official is elected by the owners with the largest stake in the ownership, or by some other board. There is one important restriction to the operation of democracy in FC Barcelona and a few other Spanish clubs: only those members who can show enough financial collateral can run for the presidency, because in case of accute financial difficulties they are held legally responsible. This means that only members of the Catalan bourgeoisie can afford to run for the position. Nevertheless, after a few weeks of campaigning and debates, in the style of a political campaign, Mr. Josep M. Bartomeu was re-elected as president. His main rival Mr. Joan Laporta, a former president, had pledged to sign a French star, Pogba, and to cut the deals of the institution with Qatar, whose government-linked entities have been sponsoring the club in the recent past. Mr Laporta had finished his previous period in office (2003-2010) with two political positions (in the City Council of Barcelona and in the Catalan regional Parliament, which he no longer holds), and also with accusations of obscure deals with the ruling family in Uzbekistan. Bartomeu has also his fair share of legal problems, as he is being investigated for the irregularities of the signing of Neymar. Bartomeu had to pledge allegiance to the pro-independence drive in Catalonia during the campaign, fearing the mobilization of radical separatist members in favor of Mr. Laporta: this move has pushed some non-member fans who do not support Catalan independence to express their despair. A previous president of the club (the first to be elected democratically in 1978), Mr. Josep Ll. Núñez, is in jail for fiscal fraud and blackmail in matters unrelated to soccer. Meanwhile, the club remains very successful on the pitch (the last winner of the most important club  soccer competition, the European Chapions League) and the members are very proud of the democratic nature of the club. Paradoxes of democracy.

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