Catalan Police Arrest Former Barcelona President For His Alleged Involvement In Smear Campaigns Against Messi And Other Soccer Stars Across The World

Big news out of Barcelona today, which I'm sure will have ramifications throughout the football world. 

For those who aren't involved much in the football world, Barcelona is the club when it comes to worldwide recognition. Barca and Real Madrid have more followers on Instagram combined than every single professional sports team in America combined. Their facilities being raided by local police? A pretty big deal. 

What happened? Let's go back to 2017-18 when Barcelona hired I3 Ventures as a "social media consultant." At the time Josep Maria Bartomeu (the guy who was just arrested) was the president of Barcelona. 

In 2020, a claim came out that I3 Ventures was essentially running a troll account farm in which they targeted those who came out against Bartomeu....that included massive names in the football world like Pep Guardiola, Carles Puyol, Xavi, Pique, and of course, Messi. You may remember a few months ago that Messi was publicly not happy with Barcelona's leadership and wanted to leave the club. The leadership he was not happy with? Bartomeu. 

There was an internal investigation (funded by Barcelona) by PwC that found nothing, but the Catalan police have continued to look for evidence for a potential criminal investigation.

What's the legal issue? Well, it turns out that Barcelona kept a lot of the work that I3 Ventures did hidden. 

There's this great scene in The Sopranos where Carmella starts multiple investment accounts with $9999, one dollar under the amount a firm would have to report to the government. Barcelona did a move similar to this, give I3 Ventures multiple contracts of less than 200k, which is the number other board members of Barca would've had to been informed at. 

The alleged troll farms used by Barca/I3 Ventures wouldn't be the crime here, but instead, it would be a misuse of club funds and accounting issues. I don't think Bartomeu is going to be facing jail time as much as he will be facing a significant fine coming his way. 

Barcelona has been in turmoil for around a year. Not only has their team been not that great on the pitch, but they are in serious debt. 

This arrest won't affect them much, though. Bartomeu resigned in October. It appears all charges will be against him and not the club itself.