On Monday morning, news came out of Barcelona, Spain that rocked the soccer world. Local police arrested several FC Barcelona officials in connection to a scandal that has been dubbed “Barcagate.”
Those arrested include former club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who just resigned in October, and current club CEO Oscar Grau. The club’s former chief of staff and current head of legal services were also arrested. So, what is Barcagate and what does it mean for the club moving forward?
The accusations that sparked the scandal claimed that I3 Ventures, a company hired by the club to do social media work, had initiated smear campaigns against prominent figures within the club, including but not limited to Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, and former players Carles Puyol and Xavi. It’s also alleged that the club issued I3 several contracts with the intent of hiding them from board oversight, which is where the police are focusing their attention. These accusations surfaced around a year ago, and several board members resigned when they went public. The club has consistently denied the allegations and issued a statement on Monday stating that they plan to fully cooperate with the investigation.
So, what if anything do today’s developments mean for the club? It means that a tumultuous past 12 months for the club will continue. The club spent the summer locked in a dispute with one of the greatest players of all time in Messi, who made a formal transfer request and expressed his extreme displeasure with Bartomeu’s presidency. The club is holding its presidential election this week, and there’s hope that the results could convince Messi to stay beyond the expiration of his contract this summer. The club is also struggling on the field, as they sit 5 points back of Atletico Madrid in the La Liga table and enter the second leg of their Champions League tie against PSG trailing 4-1.
Information on the scandal courtesy of ESPN and The Athletic