The Truth About the FC Barcelona Raid

On the 1st of March 2021, Catalonia Regional Police's Economic Crime Unit (ECU) stormed the Camp Nou to conduct a raid.

Under the leadership of an investigative judge Adriana Gill, the ECU seized documents related to almost a year-old investigation of the Barcagate scandal and based on those documents arrests of some current and former executive officials were made.

FBC logo on sweater
The club's ex-President Joseph Maria Bartomeu along with his advisor Jaume Masferrer, the club's legal services head Roman Gumez Ponti, and the club's Chief Executive Oscar Grau were arrested by the Catalonia Police.

The authorities filed charges of corruption and misuse of funds, but the people arrested were released after their statements were taken.

This is to further the inquiry of the "BARCAGATE" case from last year where the club's officials were accused of organising smear campaigns on social media against some former and current FC Barcelona players who were critical of the club management's treatment of them.

Barcagate Backstory

This all began when a story from a radio station show of Cadena SER radio caught the attention of the authorities and they started to dig up on it.

It stated that the club's management had hired a social monitoring company, I3 Ventures, to set up several websites and social media accounts to defame major figures in the club's squad while portraying a positive image of Bartomeu.

Barcelona were alleged to have overpaid for the services using the Club's funds in a series of payments smaller than the minimum threshold of €200,00 to avoid triggering internal checks and fund authorisation procedure of the board.

The club was found to have paid a total of around €1,107,500 in 2017-18 using the minimum threshold method with a further contract worth of €947,700 for the next two seasons which they had to cancel once the story caught attention.

Resignation, Suspensions, and Rigged Auditing

In April, six top officials from FC Barcelona resigned with heavy criticism of the current board and its operative methods on and off record, which included Emili Rousaud who was Bartomeu's continuity candidate at the forthcoming election.

Barcelona completely denied any wrongdoing and stated that the payments made were fair considering the market price while I3 ventures were adamant on denying any affiliation with the websites and social media accounts.

In June, Barcelona suspended their Compliance Officer, Noemi Romero who was supposed to lead the internal investigation for these allegations on the club and instead hired PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) to carry out auditing on behalf of the club.

PwC declared that they had found no evidence which could prove that the defamation was carried out on their instructions and that the club was corruption free as the payments were in line with the market price.

The Regional Police continued investigation as they were not convinced by Barcelona's self-hired auditing consultant which only pointed out that the payments were not made using proper protocols and stated that Barcelona was paying a fair amount for the social media marketing services.

Although no one is guilty until proven otherwise, the stain of defamation hit the club hard. They were already in a whooping €800M debt and were also not performing on the pitch due to internal conflicts.

This caused a lot of disturbance in the board and with so much pressure. Bartomeu decided to step down from the Presidency in October, fearing a vote of no-confidence in the coming months.

Fast forward to the day the raid happened, everyone was taken by surprise at the Camp Nou office but were diligent in providing full support to the Regional police during the raid and investigation.

Considered the pinnacle of beautiful football, FC Barcelona that won the hearts of many has lost the trust of its faithful. The election will still proceed as planned and everyone in the football world will look forward to the results.

Peter Norman is from the green island of Ireland, loves football and Manchester United in particular, where also the great idol Roy Keane had his career. Peter is a trained journalist and likes to write articles and analyses of football.