By Tony Attwood
If you watch or look at or listen to or read any football news in England you’ll know that there is a bit of an issue going on in relation to how much money clubs can spend. And you might have noticed that Barçalona also have a problem.
Such a problem in fact that they have been selling off future assets (such as their TV income) to try and balance the books while at the same time rebuilding their stadium. Yes Barcelona have taken financial ineptitude to a new level.
For some of their deals and arrangements have been truly odd, and difficult to follow. For example, they gave their manager a new contract only for him to resign four months later because he found he had a “lack of respect”, and was suffering a drain on his mental health and physical energy, despite an extraordinary set of achievements including a league and cup double.
But the reality is that the expectation of Barcelona’s performances in the media and hence among fans are ludicrous. The club has kept on buying the top stars, when it is effectively bankrupt. The Spanish league authorities won’t allow the money from the sale of future assets to be counted in the current finances, and unless something very odd is going on within Uefa Barcelona are bust, can’t borrow, and can’t buy. Indeed it seems that when the debts reach €1billion even Uefa has to take note. As the Athletic noted in a podcast, the club is toxic.
So toxic that they seem to be hanging their future on bizarre legal cases which even if they came off would only bring in €40m – which is a tiny fraction of what they owe. Big share owners are trying to offload their shares, but no one wants to buy.
Meanwhile, names are being floated around of companies that are preparing to bail Barcelona out, but nothing seems to move, and everyone denies being involved. Even Barcelona’s legal action against Libero over the €40 million the club claims it is owed is in doubt, with many saying that Barcelona have no chance of winning the case.
So we have a club massively in debt with seemingly no way to pay the interest on its debts let alone the debts themselves. And even if Barcelona does find the money to pay what it owes, the Spanish Financial Fair Play regulations have cut the total salary bill the club that pay, as well as changing regulations on how much clubs can borrow. And until all that is sorted out, the club can’t buy any new players. Even for emergency purchases such as Vitor Roque, the player is only allowed to be registered until the end of this season.
So Barcelona have to sell, not least because they still need €100 million to balance the 2023/24 in accordance with the demands of Spanish FFP.
The simple fact is they spent more in 2023/24 than they were allowed to, and expected to get away with their deal of selling the future broadcasting rights. Those rights have been sold and the money is coming in, but it is not being allowed into the FFP calculations.
Besides which, Barcelona spends mega money each year on transfers and salaries. That money for the sale of its future TV rights has gone – next season there is no more.
Barcelona’s answer seems to be, don’t worry it will be fine because whatever rules are imposed by the Spanish football authorities they would not apply to Barcelona, since without Barcelona the Spanish league is nothing. Besides the world need Barcelona, they argue.. Take them out, and the whole pyramid of football’s hierarchy would crumble.
As we noted in the past, Barcelona have tried to get around all the rules with deals in which future TV income is sold off and that income is counted as this year’s money. That is not the way accounts work but it looks like being Barcelona’s only avenue in the current financial year to make its books balance. That would in turn mean Barcelona are hauled up before the courts once more on the same offence. It is reported in the Athletic that if they try this the offence would be considered so serious that they would be kicked out of the Champiions League as Juventus were.
And now there is another problem as the league table shows, and as we have noted before. For there is a new team in town – the City Group’s Spanish club Girona, currently top of the league and likely to qualify for the Champions League next season, just two seasons after entering the top division.
So what can they do? Basically, join the other rebels in a revamped Super League. Or accept a midtable league position. Or be bought by the City Group.
Only twice since 1980 has the club finished below fourth, and each time they immediately bounced back. This time they might not make it.
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