Desperate finances mean you can play on Barcelona’s pitch. And Neil Young.



by Tony Attwood

Amateur footballers from across Europe (or indeed the world if they fancy travelling) can rent the “sacred” Barcelona pitch and now play a one hour game on it.

The cost is currently set at 300 euros per player which if the side has no substitutes works out at £2838 per game.   The players are to be allowed 15 minutes to warm up and then play a game of two 30 minute halves.    They will enter and exit through the regular players’ tunnel and also have a trip to the Barcelona museum.

The offer is available from today for one week, although there is no news as to how widely the possibility has been taken up.

Nor indeed is anyone talking that much about how deep the financial chaos of Barcelona runs.   It is being said that Barcelona have offered 30 million euros for Lewandowski of Beyern Munich.  But then we all know that transfer rumours are quite often not exactly all that they are cracked up to be.

Just how big Barcelona’s debts are is always a matter of “it is estimated” in the media.  Barca president Joan Laporta suggested one year ago around the time that Messi left for Paris Saint-Germain, that the club’s debts had risen to £1.13bn.

Part of the problem however is that a major part of Barcelona’s debt clearance plan appears to have been negotiating to delay the date at which payments have to be made.

The club came second in the league last season 13 points behind Real Madrid, which makes it three seasons in a row since it last won the league.  Not a particularly great time in terms of the Premier League but an eternity is Spain.  The last time this happened was from 2000/1 to 2002/3.

To make matters worse for Barcelona they went out of the Champions League at the group stage, were relegated to the Europa League and went out of that in the round of 16.  For the club that won the league four times in five seasons between 2014/15 and 2018/19 this is a disaster.

And to add to these woes the current debt includes around 390 million euros in player salaries and 670 million euros owed to banks.

Now few banks in the world would risk the ire of Barcelona followers by foreclosing on the debt, but even with the most football orientated bank there has to be a limit at some point on that level of debt, especially when the most recent estimates suggest that Barcelona has a negative net worth of 451 million euros.

All of which might seem a bit of a problem, but even with all this we haven’t quite reached the limit, because Barcelona is owned by its club members.  The route the club has taken has been one of cutting the salaries of its players by mutual agreement.  Not a ploy that many other clubs would be able to get away with, but Barcelona seem to have made some progress using this approach.

But perhaps the biggest help will come from Spotify which has bought the rights to rename the stadium as the Spotify Camp Nou, although the fact that the recent chief executive, Ferran Reverter, resigned after seven months suggests that not everything is yet in order.

Unfortunately just about the time that Spotify clinched the deal with Barcelona the value of its own shares slipped and it announced a loss of 39 million euros and announced a fall in first quarter profits for this year.

It also had problems with the podcaster Joe Rogan, who has made some statements about Covid-19 vaccines which have meant that a number of musicians then pulled away from Spotify.

Neil Young accused Spotify of “spreading fake information about vaccines – potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them” and rebranded Spotify as “the home of life-threatening Covid misinformation.”

Spotify are said to have paid $100m for the rights to The Joe Rogan Experience podcast which was then downloaded almost 200 million times a month.

This brings me to a point I rarely get to make.  Aside from having the pleasure of publishing Untold Arsenal I also run “Untold Dylan” which as you might guess, is a blog about the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016 “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” 

And as it happens Neil Young has occasionally featured on that site through his performances of Dylan songs.  And that in turn gives me the chance (I think for the first time ever and possibly the last since I can’t quite see how I could get away with this a second time) to put up a video of Neil Young singing a Dylan song, “Foot of Pride” which has several times been featured on Untold Dylan.   Which seems rather appropriate as a way of considering the financial mess that Barcelona has got itself into. 

All a bit tenuous of course, but during the summer hiatus we do have to cast the net a little further afield.

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