El president of the club Josep Maria Bartomeu.Alejandro García / EFE
researchers have analyzed the Barçagate detail work that FC Barcelona instructed the company Nicestream between 2017 and 2020, for which he paid 2.3 million. And they have come to the conclusion that a good part of the reports are related to the personal reputation of Josep Maria Bartomeu . Company workers – some of them have admitted the nature of the assignment – were scouring Twitter and Facebook for comments on "JMB." They wrote down messages from fans and, above all, from "detractors." In addition to eroding his rivals , Bartomeu saw in 2017 the imperative need to improve his public image, deteriorated by the club's drift. When he took over the project, the owner of Nicestream – Carlos Ibáñez, who now lives in Uruguay – found that Bartomeu had "86% negative comments" on social networks.
Detained on Monday by the Mossos and provisionally released by the judge , Bartomeu is one of the four Barça executives investigated for the crimes of unfair administration and corruption between individuals. Judge Alejandra Gil inquires whether the former president used money from FC Barcelona for purposes that have nothing to do with the entity's corporate purpose. That is the keystone of criminal offense and that is why the defenses will try to combat it. The lawyers assume that the hiring was opaque and the internal regulations were ignored, but they will reply that, as for the president, Bartomeu's image well deserved to be preserved in the face of attacks on the networks. The Mossos consider that the club was harmed and they estimate the patrimonial damage at up to 1.2 million euros.
If the reports dissected by the Mossos, which EL PAÍS has accessed, show anything, it is that Bartomeu did not enjoy, in general lines , of great popularity. The works measured, each month, the "evolution of sentiment" of the audience and Barça fans towards the president.
One of the most striking reports is titled Bots Font, alluding to the alleged use by Víctor Font – candidate for the presidency of Barça in next Sunday's elections – of profiles to attack the president with the hashtag #bartomeuout. The Mossos remember that the "beneficiary" of this work is Bartomeu "and not the club as an entity." Another document, entitled Detractors, mentions the existence of "six clusters [groups] of detractors" linked to Font himself, but also to Joan Laporta and Antoni Freixa, also presidential candidates.
Nothing seems to escape analysis. The extra-sports avatars of first-team players and leaders are studied according to their impact on the figure of “JMB”. For example, the Neymar case or the prosecution of former president Sandro Rosell. In brief sentences about a photo of Bartomeu, the report highlights that "criticisms" of the president were in that case "minority": around 10% of the mentions to the subject. In April 2018, the president was interviewed on the SER network, which deserves another report of what was brewing on Twitter. "Detractor sentiment dominated, calling for Guardiola's return and questioning his management."
"Swindling the partner"
In the summer of 2018, Barça publicly presented its new Seient Lliure model, a system that plans to compensate the partner who releases his entry to encourage attendance at the Camp Nou and which generated a strong controversy. "51% accused the management of defrauding the partner", summarizes the report, which details one by one the "direct mentions" of users to "JMB". The appointment of Jaume Masferrer – one of those investigated and the main architect of the contracts signed with Ibáñez's company – as presidential advisor was also received with sharp criticism. "The trolls and detractors of JMB took advantage of the news to attack the board."
Bartomeu and his right hand did everything possible, according to the Mossos, so that the alleged contracts on "network monitoring" were confidential. First they "divided" them into amounts less than 200,000 euros to avoid the control bodies, such as the adjudication committee of the board of directors. Later they tried to include the expenses in the budgets of other departments such as La Masia – the football training school – or the Barça affiliate in Hong Kong. When Cadena SER uncovered, in February 2020, the reality of those jobs, Bartomeu maneuvered to control the internal investigation – the head of regulatory compliance was fired – and to limit the external audit.