- 58-year-old won 57.6% of the vote
- Lionel Messi among those to cast ballot in the election
Joan Laporta is the Barcelona president once again. Photograph: Alejandro García/EPA-EFE
Barcelona members elected Joan Laporta as club president on Sunday, turning to the man who oversaw one of their most successful periods to lead them out of an institutional and financial crisis.
Laporta, who was Barça president between 2003 and 2010, won a resounding 57.6% of the vote with more than 99% votes counted, while Victor Font came second with 31.8% and Toni Freixa was third with 9.1%.
Laporta succeeds Josep Maria Bartomeu, who resigned as president in October to avoid facing a vote of no confidence from members who turned on him after Lionel Messi tried to leave the club last August and the team were beaten 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Messi was among several Barça players to vote in the election a day after winning 2-0 at Osasuna to go second in La Liga. Barça said 51,765 out of 109,531 eligible members had voted in the election, which was postponed from January due to coronavirus restrictions in Catalonia.
Laporta, 58, was first elected in 2003 and presided over a golden period in the club’s history that featured four La Liga titles and two Champions League triumphs. He won a second term unopposed in 2006, with the club’s statutes preventing him from standing for a third in 2010.
He ran in the 2015 elections but was emphatically beaten by incumbent Bartomeu, whose campaign had been boosted by the team winning the treble a month earlier. Bartomeu was arrested last Monday in a Catalan police investigation related to allegations of improper management and business corruption which also saw the club’s Camp Nou offices raided. He has not commented on his arrest and made use of his right not to give a statement in court.
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Laporta, who celebrated his victory by singing the club’s anthem with his campaign team and sipping champagne, takes over a club with huge financial problems due to the Covid-19 pandemic eliminating ticket revenue and badly hitting merchandising income.
Barça’s last accounts showed a gross debt of more than €1.4 bn ($1.67 bn) with a net debt of €488m. The club agreed a temporary player pay cut last year while it had to delay payments to players in December. Yet things are looking up on the pitch, with Ronald Koeman’s side winning 13 of their past 16 league games and reaching the Copa del Rey final.