Josep Maria Bartomeu has resigned as president of Barcelona, taking his entire board of directors with him.
Under increasing pressure in recent months yet seemingly determined to cling on to power despite the on-going crisis at the club, the decision to walk away en masse was finally agreed during a board meeting on Tuesday evening.
The 57-year-old will not now face the vote of no confidence brought against him by club members and will leave with immediate effect. Indeed, the decision to resign was reached after the Catalan government refused to postpone the no-confidence motion until mid-November as the board had proposed.
An interim board will take over and prepare for presidential elections. Bartomeu and his board may face civil action holding them personally liable for the budgetary shortfall over the period of his administration since 2015.
On Monday Bartomeu had insisted: “there is no reason to present [my] resignation”, adding: “it is not a good idea to leave the club in the hands of an administrator”. He always knew though that scenario was the likely outcome of the vote of no-confidence. Almost 20,000 members’ signatures had been gathered to force a referendum which Bartomeu had no realistic prospect of surviving, despite only needing a third of the vote.
Bartomeu leaves as arguably the least popular president in Barcelona’s history, facing a crisis at almost every level at the Camp Nou and a breakdown in relations between the boardroom and the dressing room. In the summer, he blocked the departure of Lionel Messi who then publicly admitted that he had only stayed to avoid ending up in court with the club. In the interview in which he announced he was staying, the Argentinian insisted: “there has been no project or anything for a long time.”
Now, seven weeks after Messi was forced to remain, Bartomeu and his board have gone.