Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall , at the moment Spanish Football giants Barcelona are facing their own mini existential crisis. For a club which prides itself as ” Mes Que Un Club, More Than a Club”, they are currently punch drunk. Blows are being thrown from all angles on and off the pitch. On the seventh of March , they go for Presidential elections and there are three men who are engaged in this football contestation. They all promising a new direction for the club as they seek to restore Barca to the royal table of European football.
It is an abomination to mention the word bankruptcy in the same sentence with Barcelona. However, according to Spanish football expert Guillem Balague this is exactly the situation that is pertaining at Barca. “The club is on the verge of bankruptcy with an obsolete stadium that needs renewal and the end of the Messi era on the horizon.” he wrote on his blog.
Joana Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Freixa are all offering themselves for one of the biggest jobs in world football. They have their own visions about the Messi issue , the debt and the general direction of the club. The three do not bury their heads in the sand and pretend that Barcelona can ride the storm. They all agree that the club faces bankruptcy and measures have to be taken to control the costs and manage the debt which threatens to spiral out of control.
Barcelona Football Club has a unique ownership model. The club is owned by its members and it is this matter which i find interesting. I think clubs like Highlanders and Dynamos can also draw lessons. They present themselves as Community clubs with no individual owner. At Barcelona this question was posed to the three aspirants by Guillem and here is what they had to say.
Joana Laporta said, ” My motivation is to keep Barcelona as a club that belongs to its members, the members are the owners of the club and i will maintain this relationship “
Toni Freixa responded to the same question thus, “We are totally against any action that places us close to becoming a limited company. This idea to bring investment inside our management structure is very dangerous !” he said with emphasis.
Victor Font sees it differently, ” Our Barcelona project believes that to sell 49 per % of certain assets we have in exchange with much needed funds is a concept that makes sense. Bringing in strategic partners to help us develop different parts of the business with a plan to incorporate millions of fans in the world can bring capital into the club” he proclaimed.
It is obvious which campaign line will be more appealing to the so called owners of Barcelona, the voting members. They would like to keep the status quo and the Victor Font approach might be seen as an attempt to sell the club to the highest bidder.
An abomination? Well maybe but let us not forget that Barcelona never used to wear sponsored shirts. Instead , they wore shirts with the Unicef logo. For the idealist , this was a noble cause but eventually a cold economic and business decision was made. Barcelona signed a deal with Qatar Airways in 2013 and they have now moved to Rakuten , a Japanese company in a deal worth US 59 million per annum. Money indeed changes hearts.
Which brings me closer home to our football giants Dynamos and Highlanders. Do they stick with their mode of ownership which would dovetail with with the arguments as presented by Laporta and Freixa above or do they borrow from the Font approach.
This is a legitimate discussion and a discussion which i have had with a few friends. One friend Cad Abbito an ardent Highlanders supporter seems to favour the Font vision. ” Selling a percentage of the club will take the club forward, it will allow massive investments in the club while the majority ownership remains with the club. ” he proposed. Buhle Ncube another passionate member of the Bosso fan base concurs. ” Our ancestors should allow a stake of the club to be owned by someone who can invest in the club”, she said. By ” ancestors ” she was speaking tongue in cheek, she meant the Elders at the club or those who control the club who prefer the status quo.
Another keen follower of Zimbabwe football Hastings Kamanga shared his thoughts on Dynamos. ” The club needs to find a partner who can invest so that it can move to the next level. A certain % of shares will be given to this individual who will add to the value of the club ” he suggested.
I find the Barcelona situation interesting. I can not help but think about our football giants. Has the time come for them to invite investors who can claim a percentage ownership of the clubs or should the status quo remain undisturbed ?It is a legitimate question but a question which will be resisted by the elders who control the clubs. It is not easy to move from an established tradition.
Time will tell.