By Tony Attwood
When a club moves from having a shirt too sacred ever to put the name of a sponsor on, to accepting the money of Qatar, you know something has changed.
When a club suddenly fails to pay its top players for a month and the president speaks of having to turn off the colour photocopier, you know something is not quite right.
When the club’s top star is told he has to stand public trial over tax evasion, you might get a bit uncomfortable
When the club are told to pay after being charged with tax fraud over the signing of a player, and then claim they have done nothing wrong, you might shift in the chair a bit and wonder.
When your top player is himself charged with tax fraud back in his own country, you might start thinking, hang on there is a pattern here.
When your former president is then charged with tax evasion, you might start thinking, oh, come on…
Then after all that, when Fifa, of all people, charge the club with moving under age players across national boundaries for their own benefit, clearly in breach of the laws, and the club say, “We do not do things like that” you might start to think, well, maybe there is something amiss.
And when Fifa charge your club’s Football Association with complicity in the under age player issue, you might again feel a little uncomfortable.
And when the entire defence entered by the club turns out to be that the club is world famous for its youth academy so of course does not misbehave, you might have doubts as to why there is not actually a proper robust defence being issued.
And when finally the third hearing is lost and the club clearly is guilty of child trafficking, then, if you were in the PR business, you might say, “err, hang on guys, let’s try and keep it tight now. We’ve been banned from transfers for a year, our entire world renown academy system has been shown to be a fraud, let’s keep it calm.”
And so just at this moment you wouldn’t really want your most famous player simply not to turn up at a visit to a children’s hospital, or an open training session for which many had paid to watch the great man. You wouldn’t want him saying he had gone down with gastroenteritis just at the moment when Xavi Hernandez described gastroenteritis as an excuse for when something else is going on.
And you wouldn’t then want to find your star player using social media to follow other clubs.
Or you might think…
“Actually never mind, because the press in England will always love us.”
And yes they do love Barcelona, and seemingly always will. Each individual incident gets a little bit of coverage in the press, but the whole damning package never gets mentioned. Indeed in the build up to the final appeal against the child trafficking charges some papers were still talking about who Barcelona would buy in the January transfer window – as if it were so certain that they would be given the all clear that one didn’t even need to debate it.
Even more oddly now, if they do mention the transfer ban the reasons for it are never mentioned. Speaking ill of Barcelona in the British press is only allowed on the basis of one thing at a time, less the perfect image of the club so carefully nurtured by Barcelona over the years at considerable expense, is damaged.
It is rather like the moment when Thierry Henry and co were not paid. A tiny mention in the financial pages, but that was it. Is it thought to be too delicate a matter for us to grasp? Or might we be too hurt?
The simple fact is that Barcelona has been hit over and over again by problems of their own making, and their one way out is to take more and more money from the gas giant of Qatar.
Why the media are so much in love with Barcelona that they won’t put the string of disasters together to draw a complete picture, I don’t know. But to say the least, it is curious. After all, if they haven’t got their own files, they could always read ours.
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