Barcelona in turmoil after six board directors quit in protest at president

Members resign over clubs's handling of social media scandal and the coronavirus crisis

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Spanish champions Barcelona were in turmoil on Friday after six board directors resigned criticising the clubs's handling of a social media scandal and the financial implications of the coronavirus crisis.

Two of the La Ligaclub's four vice presidents, Emili Rousaud and Enrique Tombas, were among those to quit, joined by directors Silvio Elias, Josep Pont, Jordi Calsamiglia and Maria Texidor.

In a letter to fans, the directors pointed a finger at president Josep Maria Bartomeu and expressed doubts about the board's ability to handle the implications of the pandemic, which has slashed income and led to a 70 per cent players' pay cut.

They asked Bartomeu to call presidential elections as soon as possible and criticised the club for hiring a third party, I3 Ventures, earlier this year to monitor social media coverage.

Bartomeu has denied accusations the company created social media accounts to smear future presidential candidates, and former and current players, but he anyway rescinded the club's contract with the firm. I3 also denied any wrongdoing.

"We have arrived at this point because we cannot reverse the way the club is managed in the face of important challenges in the future, especially in the post-pandemic era," said the letter, which appeared in Spanish media on Friday.

"We also want to show our displeasure over the unfortunate episode about the social media accounts, known as 'Barcagate', which we learned about through the press.

"As our last act of service to the club, we recommend that elections are called as soon as circumstances permit so that the club can be managed in the best way possible and deal with the important challenges of the immediate future."

There was no immediate reaction from Barcelona or Bartomeu.

Barca have won eight of the last 11 La Liga titles and led the standings when football in Spain was indefinitely postponed last month.

Barcelona players, including club captain Lionel Messi, have taken an additional pay cut to guarantee non-playing staff will receive full salaries while soccer is paused.

Bartomeu, who is unable to stand for re-election as he has served two terms, became Barca president in 2014 after Sandro Rosell's resignation.

He has faced increasing criticism from supporters, who staged noisy protests against him in the last two matches at the Camp Nou and called for his resignation.

Messi has also been unhappy with the club's hierarchy and was furious at director of football Eric Abidal for suggesting it was a lack of effort by certain players that got manager Ernesto Valverde the sack in January.

“When you say things about players, you should name them because if you don’t, you are throwing dirt at everybody, and starting rumours that aren’t true," Messi said on social media.

And the Argentine took to social media again recently, angry that Barca players were being made the fall guys over the financial crisis caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

He said on Instagram: "It never ceases to amaze us that from within the club there were those who tried to put us under the magnifying glass, adding pressure for us to do what we were always going to do anyway.

"As well as reducing our salaries by 70 per cent during the state of emergency, we're going to make some contributions so that all the employees at the club can earn 100 per cent of their wages during this situation.

"We're going to get out of this very soon and we'll do it all together."