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Josep Bartomeu’s right to hold on as Barcelona president for another year is causing chaos

Barcelona might be a basket case club right now but what supporter wouldn’t want the power to vote out an incompetent board every six years?

The last time the club held elections it was 2015 and off the back of a league, cup and Champions League treble Josep Bartomeu won polling 25,823 votes, 54.63 per cent of the turnout.

His six years are up next summer so the supporters have the chance to pick again.

No system is without its flaws however and Bartomeu’s right to a sixth year despite his overwhelming unpopularity and the desire for change now, is a problem.

Xavi wants to coach Barcelona with Carles Puyol as his sporting director but neither wants to work with Bartomeu so the plan that would take the club forward is on hold.

Such a situation could be solved by a vote of no-confidence forcing elections ahead of time. But this is always difficult and in the current climate, even more problematic than usual.

Any group wanting to force a vote of no confidence needs to gather signatures from 15 per cent of the membership (it used to be five per cent but Sandro Rosell raised it to 15).

Currently that means 16,570 names on a petition. Gathering such support is a lot easier to do, stood outside the Nou Camp asking disgruntled supporters to sign before they go the game.

In the last two matches before LaLiga lockdown there were protests against Bartomeu at the stadium. Supporters even brought their white handkerchiefs to wave in protest – the old-fashioned way of showing contempt for the status quo.

But football’s subsequent return behind closed doors took away that possibility of building the protest on match days and filling the petition quota.

Now in the middle of August people are not only, not at the Nou Camp for matches, many of them are not even in the city.

From the date they announce the vote of no confidence protesters have 14 days to gather the necessary number of signatures.

If they manage it the club is forced to hold a referendum on whether the board should resign.

But the motion still needs a two-thirds majority in the referendum to pass. It’s not impossible but it’s problematic and with Catalonia still in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic it would probably take the real possibility of Messi’s departure to trigger anything like the necessary level of mobilisation.

So things are set to stumble on. The president will not quit. He needs to hire a new coach but anyone taking over now knows they could be out after one season because the president will definitely be gone next summer. 

Messi has told the directors he wants out from this shambles but he can’t leave because he has a £633m (€700m) release clause. Selling Messi for less could still balance the books but the board would never get away with it.

It’s a comic soap opera and it’s tempting to laugh at the very public meltdown. But by the summer of 2021 at the latest Barcelona supporters will have the chance to choose the man they want to run the club – and by extension the coach too because every presidential candidate will have named his manager before the election.

It beats having a lousy owner who can’t be shifted, no matter what he does with the club.

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