In an press conference on Tuesday, Bartomeu announced he — along with the entire Barcelona board of directors — was to step down with immediate effect, whilst also declaring that the Spanish club has agreed to join the proposed European Super League in an attempt to guarantee the club’s future financial sustainability.
“I can announce some news that will in an extraordinary way change the club’s revenue prospects for the coming years,” Bartomeu said towards the end of his press conference.
“Yesterday (Monday, October 27), the Board of Directors approved the acceptance of the requirements to participate in a future European Super League, a project promoted by the big clubs in Europe.
“The details of the proposal will be at the disposal of the next Board of Directors and the decision on participation in the competition will have to be ratified by the General Assembly. We (Board of Directors) also agreed on the new format of the new Club World Cup.”
The Club World Cup is a FIFA organized event, but a revamped, 24-team edition due to launch in June 2021 has been put on hold due to the global pandemic.
According to recent reports, the European Super League — purportedly backed by world governing body FIFA — would involve the biggest teams from across Europe, and that around $6 billion has been set aside for the project, with the help of bank JP Morgan, to help with the creation of the league.
JP Morgan declined to comment, and FIFA said it was not aware of any agreement.
“The topic of a so-called ‘European Super League’ comes up every now and then and FIFA has no wish to comment further on this since there are already well established football institutional structures to deal with it,” said football’s world governing body in a statement sent to CNN.
“Generally speaking, and as stated again last week by the FIFA President, the focus for FIFA is on global football development and the new Club World Cup, and not any European super league.”
The idea of relegation and promotion is widely reportedly not included in the plans for the mooted European Super League.
A UEFA spokesperson told CNN that it “strongly opposes a Super League.” Such a league — if it ever got off the ground — would be a direct competitor to the European governing body’s lucrative Champions League competition.
“The principles of solidarity, of promotion, relegation and open leagues are non-negotiable,” said UEFA in a statement sent to CNN.
“It is what makes European football work and the Champions League the best sports competition in the world. UEFA and the clubs are committed to build on such strength not to destroy it to create a super league of 10, 12, even 24 clubs, which would inevitably become boring.”
‘Weak and imaginary competition’
In July, UEFA announced that the combined gross commercial revenue of its major club competitions — the Champions League, the Europa League and the Super League — was estimated at around $3.815 billion (€3.25 billion).
Of that, nearly $3 billion was to be distributed to clubs competing in those three competitions, with the rest covering administrative costs and set aside for solidarity payments.
La Liga President Javier Tebas called Bartomeu’s announcement “unfortunate.”
“Unfortunate Bartomeu statement on his last day about Barcelona joining a weak and imaginary competition which would be their ruin. It confirms his ignorance about the football industry. Sad end for a president with successes and lately many mistake,” said Tebas in a tweet.
The European Club Association did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Following a string of poor results, a worsening financial situation and a very public spat with club legend Lionel Messi, Bartomeu had been the subject of increased scrutiny in recent months.
The 57-year-old was facing a vote of no confidence next month after fans and club members had called for him to leave.
But during his Tuesday press conference, Bartomeu announced that along with the board of directors, he will be stepping down with immediate effect.
During his seven-year reign at the club, Barcelona won four La Liga titles as well as the Champions League.