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The board is working to benefit the club in the long run, assures Joan Laporta

Joan Laporta speaking to the press on Monday. (Lluis Gene/AFP)

Barcelona President spoke in a two-hour-long press conference clarifying the club’s financial situation in response to Josep Maria Bartomeu’s letter, Jordi Alba’s post-match statement, the road ahead for Barcelona, and more.

Joan Laporta spoke to the press on Monday afternoon to address concerns regarding the club’s finances and a few queries rising due to recent activities. Organized to “contextualize the situation,” Laporta clarified ex-Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu’s open letter, stating the letter was full of blatant lies. Inevitably, the president also opened up on last-minute happenings during Lionel Messi’s contract negotiations.

Here’s everything that Joan Laporta spoke during the press conference, word by word as it happened:

Regarding the press conference

“This press conference has been called to put certain situations in context. There are other current aspects that I will be happy to comment on. What I want to put in context is the economic situation that we have found in the club. With numerical data, I will make an effort to make it understandable. As soon as we arrived at the club, we asked for a loan of 80 million euros granted by Goldman Sachs just to pay the payroll.”

Regarding Camp Nou’s condition

“We found that urgent repairs had to be done at the Camp Nou. A 2019 report pointed out that if it were not repaired, it entailed a risk for people. We went to work to identify the pathologies and they have been repaired at a cost of 1.8 million. We acted at maximum speed and thanks to that, we were able to open the stadium this Sunday. If the authorities made it possible to open it earlier, we would not have been able to because it would put the fans at risk and we did not want to do that.”

On the previous board’s financial mismanagement

“We have also found the context of an erroneous sports policy that causes damages to the entity. It is the inverted pyramid – veterans have long contracts and young people have short contracts – and the contracts are difficult to renegotiate. These salary reductions that the previous board members boasted, totaling to 68 million, were contract termination bonuses, not reductions.” 

“50% of the league fees had been collected in advance, which is 79 million, and also the 50% of the player sales. The previous board did so by going to the banks with a condition that charged them 9% interest. The financial expense was at 6% and we congratulate ourselves because, with the work we have done to get the 550 million, the interest is now 1.9%.”

“We have found that disproportionate payments have been made to intermediaries, not agents. For a transfer that cost 40 million, the previous board paid 8 million in purchases and 2 million on sales. A person was paid 8 million euros just to detect interesting players in South America. They are unreported amounts and another example of improper ways to act.” 

Regarding Barcelona’s current financial situation

“We’ve found out that the closing amount this year leads to losses of 481 million euros. The expense is 1,1 billion and the income is 655 million. The loss due to COVID is 91 million. We have a wage bill that represents 103% of the income. In total, it is 617 million euros. It represents 25 or 30% more than our close competitors. We are far above in terms of the sports salary bill.”

“Barça has a negative net worth of 451 million euros. This is complicated because it forces us to do a great job so that the creditors and the auditor believe us. The proof is that we have managed to raise 550 million at a very good interest of 1.1%”

“We have a negative working capital of 553 million. The difference between what we owe and what we are owed is negative 553 million. We have to pay 553 million more than what we will charge this year. It is a lot of money and it contextualizes where we are. Bank debt has increased notably and payment obligations have risen to 1,35 billion euros. “

“Invoices were split, such as those of I3 Ventures with Barçagate, invoices of Espai Barça and the debt contracted were also split.  All these were done to bypass them from going through the Assembly. The entire content will be explained in full detail by our CEO in September.” 

“This modus operandi was not only done by splitting the invoices but also through the IT and marketing departments, where more than 200 small suppliers were used to avoid going through internal controls.”

Regarding the fan’s return to the Camp Nou

“The first thing to highlight was the atmosphere in the Estadi. A new wave entered, and we were all waiting for it. There were almost 30,000 who were cheering and it was clear that they wanted to cheer. And it was also reciprocated. The best player in the history of football is not at Barça, and there was an atmosphere that wanted the new era to be born with force. I really liked the support for Barça, yesterday it was shown that Barça is above all and this has to be appreciated.” 

Bartomeu’s open letter decoded point-by-point

“They are saying that they are not responsible for the 2019-20 financial year. They are responsible until March 17, 2021. They resigned on October 27, 2020, and the closed numbers are the responsibility of their board. No one will escape from their responsibilities.” 

“It wasn’t 375 million. On 20/21, COVID losses totaled 217 million and if you subtract the associated expenses on 126, you get 91 million of loss due to COVID. It is a way of dropping data and comments that are not true. It is a lie.” 

“They presented a budget with hypotheses that are difficult to fulfill. Therefore, the budget gave less than 320 million euros for the 20-21 season. This is the third lie. It causes a worrying economic patrimonial situation and a dramatic financial situation. As of March 21, 2021, the debt was 1,35 billion euros.” 

“The fourth point refers to the reduction of 12% in the 19/20 season and speaks of a reduction of 191 million euros. And it spoke of a second negotiation that would lead to a 20% reduction, totaling about 90 million euros. What has been reduced and deferred is 68 million for the 20/21 season. We did not make a new negotiation because the lawyers assured us that a second procedure could not be done in the same exercise.” 

The main motive behind Laporta’s conference was to address Bartomeu’s open letter. (Lluis Gene/AFP)

“When we got to work, we found that Barça Studios was not ready to be sold and Rakuten, our sponsor, has a ‘blacklist’ that limits this potential sale. Until we renegotiate the contract with Nike, it limits us a lot as well. Barça Corporate was covering holes in the short term. It is a lie that it had an income of 220 million euros.” 

“Him saying that signing the LaLiga proposal with CVC would have fixed this situation is not true because it would mortgage Barça’s audiovisual rights for half a century. It was not a direct income. It was a debt, they offered us a loan. CVC’s valuation is low and the legal structure of the operation is not clear to us. It shows the short-term vision when it comes to operating.”

“The seventh point of the letter refers to the fact that salaries soared because they could not compete with the state clubs and the Premier League. What is certain is that sports policy has been disastrous. Since Neymar was sold for 222 million, money was spent disproportionately and at the speed of light. We have not forgiven how the club dealt with Neymar’s 16 million euros. This triggers salaries and amortizations. And there we are now. The proof is that in terms of sports we have not done well. They should have changed the model and believed in La Masia.”

“The policy they have made with the salary limitation of LaLiga has been erratic. On 20/21, we only had a salary limit of 237 million, and they approved budgets with 415 million euros. They no longer counted the 191 salary reduction. That would otherwise be 601 million euros, being able to present a team only for 237 million.” 

On Espai Barca project and the lack of transparency

“Regarding Espai Barça, we found a series of lies. It is based on a series of falsehoods and a lack of transparency is apparent. Members are not informed that more than 12,000 members had to be passed from the first tier to the third tier. Another lack of information that is not reported is that the reconstruction of the stadium with the periodic assistance of 85,000 people is of very low technical feasibility. There are falsehoods such that the project is undervalued in costs in many items. Estadi Johan Cruyff was presented to cost 4 million, whereas the reality was it cost only 20 million. Reports such as the one from 2019 were hidden where it was evident that maintenance was not being done.” 

“At Espai Barça, we are redoing the project to make it economically viable. We hope to start the work in the summer of 2022.”

“As I read it, I was seeing lies and that is why I wanted to clarify everything, so that the lies, being repeated so much, do not become true.”

“I’ll stick with the last paragraph where it says that if responsibilities arise from due diligence, it offers to try to solve them. We will look for solutions to debug responsibilities. In the last paragraph, it indicates that irresponsibility has occurred. It is sad to see how he’s sent a letter full of lies. Eight lies in eight points. And more for the president of a board that has led the club to a ruinous situation.” 

On liabilities left by the previous board

“If responsibilities arise, we will explain it in September and we will do whatever it takes. Some are already being refined, such as Barçagate. If responsibilities arise, we will refine them.” 

“It would not be appropriate to talk about the actions that we will take until they are done. I cannot say if it will be a liability action or a claim for fraudulent action, or if we will find a solution.” 

On Jordi Alba’s post-match comments 

“We are satisfied, above all, we have already resolved with Piqué, for which I greatly appreciate the predisposition. There are players who at times are not just football players. In Piqué’s case, he is a club player who loves Barça above everything. He has seen our compromised situation and has done a commendable act, which not everyone does, of reducing the salary to allow players to register. We hope that other captains will act in Piqué’s line. The negotiations are going very well and they are behaving extraordinarily.

“Jordi is right. We contacted his agent on May 24 when we met for a meal. And then he received a letter on July 8. I understand the players. They come from a reduction and they are asked for another effort. Until they do not assimilate, it is understandable. All of Jordi Alba, Busquets, and Roberto are behaving very well and we will reach the agreements that both parties want to reach. They will do an act of service to the club and when we can, we will recognize it.”

On Barcelona’s chances of being a private entity

“The situation is dramatic but we have good news. The fact that we have made a strategic plan sustained in our credibility and experience, and that Barça has important assets, makes this situation temporary.”

“We have proposals for the main sponsor of the shirt and we have five parties also interested in Barça Studios and BLM. Those of us who are leading the club are clear that the club has to be owned by the members.” 

“There is a six-point-strategic plan that we have presented to the auditor so that he agrees to validate the proposed numbers. At Espai Barça, they see enormous growth potential. The fact that there is a new competent executive structure has had an influence. The club’s trajectory shows that there will not be a cessation of the company. But in general, there has been a potential for growth.”

Regarding on going negotiations for salary reductions

“At this moment we are working and I do not want to go deep into this subject because they are ongoing negotiations. The players have a fixed salary and then some bonuses. And we are making logic to everything. Piqué’s gesture is extraordinary. The others are contemplating either a postponement or suppression of title bonuses. Solutions are being sought. And we are seeing a lot of predispositions.”

Regarding Espai Barca’s restructuring plans

“The project has become obsolete. We are repositioning it, restructuring, remaking it. It is not exactly a new project but there are many new variations. There is another VIP zone ring that is placed in such a way that it allows us to locate the 12,000 fans who were at risk of being transferred from the first to the third tier. There is a second tier that gives us more ‘hospitality’ spaces. We do it with the minimum impact on supporters and with a planned schedule.”

On Jaume Llopis and his statements

“Nothing. I have nothing to say. This man was not a director and he better not say anything.”

On player registrations after salary reductions

“It is a story that is given for a press conference. The salary limit presented is based on a budget. With the initial calculations of losses, LaLiga allowed us to register for 88 million. When we had the losses, these 481 million losses, we still had less margin. But there is the rule of 1 to 4 plays. They allow you to sign if the salary you release is 100 and you register 25, for example. In the case of Piqué, with a regular presence in the lineup, the ratio is 1 to 2, there is more margin, and it has given us to be able to register, in addition to the players that have been sold (Trincao, Todibo, Junior, Aleña, Konrad).”

Regarding Bartomeu’s intention behind the open letter

“I read it on the plane and that is a list of lies that I have been defining point by point. I found it to be out of place opportunism. Then you reflect and you see that he is trying to justify his unjustifiable management. I do not know if he has entered a state of panic after seeing the negative results and the way in which they [Bartomeu’s board] have acted is being analyzed in the courts. He is in a situation of maximum concern and wants to escape.”

On the club’s path post-Messi

“We already knew that the situation was worrying but my teammates and I love Barça and we had a plan. Now I am in very high spirits and seeing the team yesterday, I’m convinced that the right decisions have been made. In a couple of years, I hope the club’s economy becomes healthy.”

“In Leo’s case, I’m sad but I’m convinced a necessary step was taken because the institution is above all. Today was not a press conference to talk about Due Diligence, it was a press conference to contextualize certain things. It does not scare us because the challenge is very great and we will be able to reverse it. It is a new era that is born that if we are all united it will be very successful.”

On Lionel Messi and the welcome that he got at PSG

If it had happened later, we would have had one or two more years of Messi. He deserves the presentation and welcomes that he got, just like his whole family. Now maybe we will be rivals and we will have to fit it. Motivation on our part is maximum. It has been seen in the team that the dressing room is strong, motivated, and committed. What I can tell you is that we did everything possible within the financial possibilities of the club.”

“I am referring to the successful relationship because in recent years the team, not just Leo, has not achieved the expected results. We would have liked him to end his career at Barça but it could not have been for reasons objective.”

“About Leo, I have already said that our will was for him to stay and when we saw the situation of the entity when we saw the negotiations, we thought about prioritizing the interests of the club.”

On signing a new forward

“If we release 4 million we can enter 1. At the moment, the squad is very motivated. And Koeman is seeing which players have what it takes and those who do not. It is a very good job of the football sports department. The market does not close until August 31, now with the CVC, there are also proposals from other clubs that have more money. You have to meet the ratios because we no longer have a limit.”

Regarding the club’s target after reduction

“The objective is a 200 million reduction. We would have to be at 65 or 70% and we are exceeding the excess ratios.”

On Messi’s statements

“I have seen statements by Leo Messi and they are very consistent with what we have said. We were convinced that it could be done because we did not know the numbers then. Although we had the contract drawn up and the negotiators shook hands, in the end, it was clear that it did not fit and you have to understand that Leo had his calendar. That is normal.”

On his second tenure and the difficulties

“It is not as complicated as I expected. I expected it to be more or less the same. I see myself with more experience and very well accompanied by my board mates and the executive structure.”

Regarding if any important players will be sold

“The 200 million discount is the initial objective thinking that we had to put Messi there. We are not contemplating the sales of assets that could involve a very important operation.”