Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is facing a vote of no confidence and could be ousted before the end of the year after a motion to have him removed from his position gathered more than the required 16,500 verified signatures.
Presidential hopeful Jordi Farre, who filed the petition against Bartomeu, said that the Messi situation was the tip of the iceberg and accused the president and Barca’s board of directors of years of mismanagement.
Over 20,000 members had signed the motion by mid-September, but they needed to be verified by a commission put together by the club before passing to the next stage.
On Wednesday, over a week after the verification process began, 16,521 verified signatures were confirmed meeting the threshold for triggering a vote of no confidence against Bartomeu.
Barca must now fix a date, within the next 20 days, for a referendum to be held among the club’s 154,000 members. More than 66.6% must vote against Bartomeu for him to be removed.
If that happens, the club will then have to hold an election to elect a new president, with Farre among those who will run. Other candidates may include Victor Font and Joan Laporte.
Some local reports suggest Bartomeu could resign before then but sources contacted by ESPN have not been able to confirm that.
On two other occasions in the club’s history, referendums were held to determine the fate of presidents — Josep Lluis Nunez in 1998 and Laporta in 2008.
Both presidents survived the vote of no confidence. Laporta, who presided over Barca for a total of seven years in two separate spells, was among the members who signed the latest petition.
The pressure on Bartomeu has risen in the last year following results on and off the pitch.
Last season was Barca’s first trophy-less campaign since 2008, while on Monday they announced losses for the 2019-20 season totalling €97 million, with the club’s net debt more than doubling to €488m.
Messi’s recent tirades against the board — first in an interview with Goal and then on Instagram when Luis Suarez left for Atletico Madrid — has contributed to the declining popularity of Bartomeu among club members.
Regardless of what happens with the vote of no confidence, Bartomeu will leave the club next year anyway. His mandate expires in 2021 and he cannot run for the presidency again, with elections scheduled for March.