Josep Maria Bartomeu said Barcelona have agreed to join a new European Super League as part of a 35-minute speech on Tuesday in which he confirmed he was stepping down as the club’s president.
Bartomeu said joining the venture would guarantee Barca’s financial sustainability moving forward after the club announced earlier this month that their debt had more than doubled to €488 million.
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The agreement will have to be ratified by the incoming president and then voted on by the club’s members.
“I can announce some extraordinary news,” Bartomeu said towards the end of his farewell speech. “[On Monday], the board of directors approved the requirements to participate in a future European Super League, a project promoted by the big clubs in Europe which will guarantee the future financial sustainability of the club.
“We can say with pride that we are the highest valued club in the world. We have achieved that ahead of clubs owned by States and billionaires, all while keeping the club in the hands of the members. And the European Super League guarantees the club will remain in the members’ hands.”
Bartomeu, 57, did not reveal any details of the proposed Super League nor what it would mean for domestic competitions like Spain’s La Liga.
However, his comments come after reports surfaced earlier this month of a breakaway European Premier League tournament, which would effectively replace the Champions League.
Sky News reported that a €5 billion funding package had been put in place for the competition, which would feature 16 or 18 of the biggest clubs, in a league format, and is also supported by Liverpool and Manchester United.
The announcement alarmed the head of the Spanish league, Javier Tebas, who criticized Bartomeu and the plans for the new competition.
“Unfortunate Josep Bartomeu announcing on his last day the participation in a phantom competition that would ruin (Barcelona) and reiterating his ignorance about the football industry,” Tebas tweeted. “A sad end for a president who did many things right but that lately made many mistakes.”
FIFA is reportedly a driving force behind the proposed European League. World football’s governing body has already set up an expanded summer Club World Cup which was due to begin in China in 2021 until the coronavirus crisis reshaped the football calendar.
Bartomeu, who replaced Sandro Rosell as Barca president in 2014, resigned earlier on Tuesday rather than await a fans’ vote of confidence on his future at the club.
Upon confirming his resignation, he rallied against the Catalan government, who he felt should have allowed the club to delay the referendum on his future due to new coronavirus restrictions in Spain.
The rest of of the board of directors stepped down alongside Bartomeu and an election will be held to appoint a new president within 90 days.
As part of Tuesday’s speech, Bartomeu also called on the club’s players and club staff to accept wage cuts or pay deferrals to help the club in their time of need.
“I hope that in the coming days the players and club employees can agree on a salary adjustment because if not there could be serious consequences for the club,” he said.
Bartomeu finished by adding: “It has been an honour to serve the club. I have tried to act responsibly and with integrity.
“Maybe we should have renewed the team last year and I accept responsibility for that. That is why we had called elections for March, to guarantee a smooth transition to the new board.
“I hope that with time what we have done will be valued.”