Was idiocy or arrogance behind Barca’s ‘spygate’?

Depending on your point of view, Real Madrid’s 2006 presidential election was either a high point in the club’s institutional history or a cringing embarrassment. The whole polemical process included police visits to the Bernabeu to investigate full-to-the-brim ballot boxes appearing from cupboards, confirmed cases of vote-rigging, a postal poll stopped by a judge and an eventual victory for Ramón Calderón that is still heavily contested. It was a glorious example of the devious lengths and lows that the rich and powerful would stoop to, to become Madrid’s president and use and abuse its enormous powers of patronage. They are currently three separate legal investigations underway looking into Calderón’s grubby little reign on the club. The first and second concern vote-rigging in the 2006 election and the infamous AGM of 2008 - the act that eventually brought down the former president’s regime after Marca’s vote-tampering exposé.The most recent probe is attempting to work out where and to whom a reported €24 million in commissions from player transfers went during Calderón’s spell. The former president’s defence is that he made no money during his time at the club and knew nothing about the alleged cases of corruption during the first two affairs, leaving one with the conclusion that Calderón is either lying or incompetent. Now that Madrid are beginning their glorious, golden era of Florentino Pérez II and his various club related construction projects - three and counting - attentions have turned to Barcelona’s 2010 presidential poll which already promises to be just as nasty as Madrid’s now legendary 2006 affair. Aside from Barça’s double wins over Racing and Málaga over the past seven days, the big, big news from Catalunya was a story from El Periódico that the club’s director general, Joan Oliver, had ordered a private investigation firm to poke about in the lives of four of the club’s five Vice Presidents.

The four that had yet to rule themselves out of next summer’s poll, coincidentally.It occurred when one of the VP’s, Joan Franquesa, told Oliver that he had concerns that he was being watched.

Instead of going to the police, Oliver ordered what he has since described as a “security audit” on Franquesa and three other VPs. Unfortunately, that particular group were not told of what was going on. And nor was club president, Joan Laporta, according to both.When the spied-upon veeps found out what had been ordered, there was a heated meeting with Oliver where the director general’s jacket was grabbed by one, claim Marca. Joan Boix, one of those affected has since admitted that “I had a hard, very hard conversation with him.”The Director General claims that the investigations were put into place to “protect and defend” the four while Laporta has said that the case is of no-one else’s concern as the “explanations were understood and accepted by the VPs.”And being the paranoid president that he is, Laporta blamed the story breaking several months after it took place on “interested parties who cannot accept that this is the best moment in the club’s history and want to destabilise it.”So this begs the question of why give this kind of ammunition to these ‘interested parties’ in the first place? Why didn’t Oliver think for one moment that “blimey, ordering secret investigations that some could interpret as a search for blackmailable material on potential opponents to Laporta’s preferred candidate during the upcoming club election could be seen as a bit dodgy?”And, as Sport ask in Friday’s edition, i“can and should the Director General have the power to order a security audit without those affected knowing?”But perhaps Oliver never thought this deeply when making his dubious decision? Or maybe he never expected to be found out?

Or maybe he never expected anything to happen to him, if he was? And this is where this case has links with the differing Real Madrid affairs. Were those involved in the various corruption cases at the club - vote-rigging has been proved in both the election and the AGM - too stupid to know they’d be caught, one day?

Or did they feel that they would be immune to any fallout?Football is not alone in being concerned with this particular conundrum.

One of the most familiar sights in Spain over the past few years has been hundreds of local politicians being arrested, charged and sentenced over real estate corruption and kickbacks. Was a local mayor in Madrid aware that owning eight houses in Miami might be a clue to ‘alternative incomes’ aside from his modest salary?Did Julian Muñoz, the former mayor of Marbella and a man about to leave prison after a three year sentence think that people would believe him when he claimed that the hundreds of thousands of Euro in cash hidden in his wardrobe was to pay the domestic staff?If they did, did they simply not care?Returning to the current spygate affair at Barcelona, aside from the moral and ethical implications of Joan Oliver’s actions, Barça fans need to decide whether the institution's Director General is an idiot or arrogant. Neither answer speaks volumes as to his credentials to remain in such a high profile position at Barcelona which always prides itself being “more than just a club.”


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