Former Barcelona president detained as club offices searched by police

Stefan Bienkowski
Stefan Bienkowski Updated: 19 May 2021 15:43 BST 3 min read
Former Barcelona president detained as club offices searched by police

Josep Maria Bartomeu, the former president of Barcelona, has been detained by police forces in the Catalan city, according to reports in Spain. 

Spanish newspaper Marca have reported that Spanish police decided to search the offices of the club on Monday morning in relation to the “Barcagate” scandal that occured last year.

As well as that, Spain’s other prominent sports newspaper Sport, are also reporting that part of the investigation has led to Barcelona’s former president also being detained.

It is believed that the authorities are acting off the back of last February’s “Barcagate”, which revealed that while president of the club, Bartomeu allegedly paid numerous press relations companies through club accounts to produce positive stories about him and negative ones about his opponents. 

Bartomeu denied any involvement in the alleged media campaigns against certain individuals associated with the La Liga club, which included Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Pep Guardiola. 

The New York Times also reported on Monday that the Spanish club had confirmed that police had entered the club’s premises in the morning, with reports in Spain suggesting that the club’s CEO, Oscar Grau, and head of legal, Roman Gomez Ponti, were also arrested. 

What is Barcagate?

“Barcagate” is the name given to the scandal which suggested that Bortomeu had hired a number of social media communications companies to conduct smear campaigns on individuals inside and outside of the club that opposed his rule.

According to reports in Spain, Bortomeu paid one media company in particular, I3 Ventures, through staggered payments that fell below the threshold that required approval from the club’s board.

Further reports also suggested that the former president also paid well over the market price for their services. A typical fee for the services would amount to around €120,000-€150,000 but Bortomeu is accused of spending just under €1 million.

Barcelona denied any wrongdoing and hired an independent company to audit the deal made with I3 Ventures, which came to the conclusion that no smear campaigns were conducted or financial irregularities greenlit by the former president.

However, it now appears as though the Spanish authorities may have found evidence to the contrary and have decided to continue their investigation into Bortomeu’s alleged financial misconduct at the club.

Who is Barcelona CEO Oscar Grau?

The current Chief Executive Officer of Barcelona is Oscar Grau. After Nacho Mestre left the position in 2016 due to personal matters, Grau was appointed CEO and has held that position ever since within the business hierarchy at the Camp Nou, having previously been CEO of FCBEscola soccer schools.

He played for the club professionally at Handball, and would go on to be involved at executive level with the Catalan Handball Federation, the Catalan Sailing Federation, as well as the Barcelona Pyrenees bid to host the 2026 Olympic Games.

Earlier this season, details of Messi’s contract with Barcelona were leaked to the press, and according Marca, Grau was one of only five individuals who had knowledge and access to the material.

The current head of legal at Barcelona is Roman Gomez Ponti. He is one of the member’s of the club’s board accused of “unfair administration, corruption between individuals and money laundering.”

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