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Barcelona plan legal action against former VP after embezzlement claims

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Barcelona will take legal action against Emili Rousaud after the club’s former vice president claimed a high-ranking executive has been taking money out of the club.

Barca have also announced a restructuring of the board of directors after Rousaud, along with five other directors, announced his resignation last week as the institutional crisis at the club deepened.

After stepping down, Rousaud said that someone inside the club “had their hands in the till,” although he didn’t name any names.

Barca responded angrily to the comments, threatening to sue Rousaud, and on Monday they revealed they would be bringing “the corresponding criminal action accordingly.”

“FC Barcelona cannot tolerate allegations that seriously damage the institution’s image,” a statement read. “The criminal action to be taken is in defence of the honour of the club and its employees.” 

There have been problems bubbling under the surface for a while at Camp Nou, but things have grown more heated since the revelation in February that Barca paid a third-party company to smear players, potential presidents and club legends online.

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President Josep Maria Bartomeu denied any knowledge of the Facebook accounts in question and rescinded the club’s contract with the company, I3 Ventures, who he said had been contracted to monitor social media.

Speaking after his resignation, Rousaud said in various interviews last week the value of the contract with I3 Ventures was inflated and had been broken down to avoid internal controls. He then added that an executive — although not someone on the board of directors — had been making money on the deal.

Barca have ordered an external audit into the relationship with I3 Ventures from PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Monday’s statement added that the audit has been held up due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, Bartomeu has named Jordi Moix, Pau Vilanova and Oriol Tomas as the club’s new vice presidents, along with Jordi Cardoner, who was already in the role, following last week’s resignations.

As well as Rousaud, who was set to run as Bartomeu’s heir in next summer’s elections, vice president Enrique Tombas also stepped down, along with four other members of the board. Four of the six had been asked to resign by Bartomeu.

Sources on the board explained to ESPN that Bartomeu wants to surround himself with people who he trusts in the final year of his mandate. He hopes the restructuring will bring more stability behind the scenes over the next 12 months.

However, as well as in-fighting among his board of directors, he’s also struggling to manage unhappy supporters and players. Some fans have called for his resignation in recent home matches, waving white hankies in his direction.

Lionel Messi, meanwhile, has been among the players to criticise the club’s hierarchy. He engaged in a war of words with sporting director Eric Abidal in February when the Frenchman blamed the players for former coach Ernesto Valverde’s dismissal.

The Argentine was then the first player to release a statement last week announcing that the squad would take a 70% wage cut due to the coronavirus pandemic. In the statement, the players expressed “surprise” that people inside the club, in reference to the board, had tried to put pressure on them during the negotiations.

Sources have told ESPN that the players’ unhappiness over the leaks led Bartomeu to ask four directors to resign this week.

Victor Font, who will run for the presidency in 2021, says only the coronavirus crisis is stopping him demanding early elections, while accusing the current board of steering the club towards “economic bankruptcy and moral decay.”

“This is not a recent problem — we have experienced the sentencing of the club in the Neymar case, the disagreements made public between employees and players with executives and managers, and the audit of the case on social networks, which seems will confirm the scandal,” Font said.

“Let’s add an erratic sports policy, the breaking up of the board and the significant reduction in income due to the pandemic, and the result is the danger of economic bankruptcy and moral decay in which the club has settled. Game over.”

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