FC Barcelona: Regulators tighten loophole and cut Spanish giants’ spending power
FC Barcelona are facing a setback to their on-field resurgence in the form of a crackdown on their exploitation of so-called “economic levers”, City A.M. can reveal.
The Spanish club, on course to end their four-year wait for another LaLiga title, have attracted the attention of domestic and European regulators with their innovative capital-raising.
Last summer they banked €400m from selling stakes in their production arm Barca Studios and a share of future media rights revenue.
The moves loosened financial restrictions imposed by LaLiga on Barcelona, who owe more than €1bn, allowing them to spend €150m on new signings including striker Robert Lewandowski.
But Spanish league chiefs have since tightened their rules on the use of these levers, meaning that clubs cannot realise the income from such sales in one season’s budget.
It means that if the Catalan team were to sell more of Barca Studios or their future media rights, the benefits would have to be spread over a number of years.
Barcelona’s operations have also put them in the crosshairs of Uefa, who are expected to rule some of their “levers” cash inadmissible in financial fair play (FFP) calculations.
The use of such mechanisms was raised at the last Uefa executive committee meeting in Nyon in January, amid concern that Barca have used a loophole.
The 26-time Spanish champions’ sale of a 24.5 per cent stake in Barca Studios for €100m to Orpheus Media in particular raised eyebrows.
Orpheus Media is run by Catalan media executive Jaume Roures, an associate of Barcelona president Joan Laporta whose company Mediapro’s early termination of a bumper contract with the French league sent many of its teams into crisis during the pandemic.
“The magical equity Barcelona have been doing will be seriously scrutinised by Uefa and almost certainly won’t be factored into FFP calculations,” said one industry source.
“So you can’t create a subsidiary that has never made any money and sell X per cent of it to your mate and then buy Lewandowski. Uefa specifically said these equity deals will be robustly scrutinised and likely not factored into FFP.”
The closing of Barcelona’s level loopholes could impact the club’s summer transfer plans, including their hopes of luring club legend Lionel Messi back from Paris Saint-Germain.
Messi left the cash-strapped team for France in 2020. The 35-year-old’s current contract expires this summer but PSG are in talks with the World Cup winner over an extension.