Saturday, June 11, 2011

Less Than a Club?

Today is a sad day in the land of Jedi Soccer, because FC Barcelona, 'More than a Club," has announced that it is reducing spending to support its vaunted amataeur athletic programs from 10 % of the club's total budget, to about 5 %.  This is roughly equivalent to about 33 million dollars US.

Despite winning the Spanish League and the Champions League this past season, FC Barcelona is still losing money.  Bloomberg Business Week reports that Barca is running a deficit of about $63.5 million dollars annually, so the decision to cut funding to amateur programs by 5 % represents about half of the club's deficit.
"Barca can't continue to lose money," Barcelona vice president Javier Faus said Wednesday. "If Mascherano takes a pay cut to come to play for Barca and if we almost lost Dani Alves, why shouldn't we ask the minority sports teams to make a sacrifice?"

And so there it is: FC Barcelona is first and foremost a professional soccer team and that remains priority number 1.  And therefore this news means that Barcelona's amateur baseball program-- a program that has an 80 year history !-- is now being completely eliminated from the list of sports supported by the club.  Players cast adrift.  The other amateur programs-- indoor soccer, basketball, field hockey, volleyball, rugby, skating, handball, and both ice hockey and roller hockey, will all have their budgets fractionally reduced and will be limited to competition in Catalonia to reduce travel expenses.  This excludes all of the best Spanish and European competition for Barcelona in a wide range of sports.

"It is a real shame, especially from the stance that this was more than a club, being multi-sport and giving back to the community" said Barcelona pitcher and Chicago native Jason Friedman.  "Personally, the hardest part is that I think a lot of the kids are going to have to stop playing."

Thanks for supporting Barcelona, Jason.  I hope they are covering your flight back to Chicago.

What I don't like about this--aside from the human cost and loss of club traditions-- is that the club only recently moved to constrict eligibility for club membership, which reduced a  substantial revenue stream right there.  It's the same question I had about the Qatar deal-- is this really the only solution? 

By way of an epitaph, I must note that Barcelona's baseball program has won three Spanish championships, and only recently won back-to-back European baseball championships in 2007 and 2008.  The team's current record is 22-2 with 10 games left to play, before Barca's talented and successful 80 year old baseball program passes out of existence.  Rest in Peace.

Today, Barca is Less of a Club.