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Report from Barcelona

L'elefant BlauWhilst most Reds were sampling the varied delights of Barcelona's nightlife IMUSA's Chair and Press Officer were taking the fight against BSkyB to Catalonia by being interviewed on Barcelona Radio and then meeting up with members of L'Elefant Blau (Blue Elephant), Barcelona's independent supporters group. Though many United fans look enviously upon the way that Barcelona Football Club is run all is not well in Catalonia, according to the members of L'Elefant Blau the democratic constitution and rules of the Club are being abused by President Nunez.

Barcelona is owned by the Club's 120,000 members who elect the President and Board or 'Junta' every five years (a more detailed explanation of the Club structure can be found on IMUSA's website at Many individual fans have expressed concern about the way Nunez has been running the Club for some time so L'Elefant Blau was established to offer fans an organised voice and gauge opinion more accurately. The group was launched around the time that Murdoch made his bid for United, back in September, members of the group wished to hold a ballot of all Barca's members but Nunez refused to allow access to the register of members addresses. Undeterred a stall with a petition was set up on La Ramblas and the group set about collecting the 6,000 signatures they required ( 5% of the Club members) to hold a vote of no confidence in Nunez. Nunez survived by the skin of his teeth with just under fifty percent of the members voting in support of L'Elefant Blau. There is a strict timetable of events for a motion of no confidence and it is widely believed that if the ballot had been open for another week Nunez could have been toppled.

IMUSA Save Our Game BannerThe structure of Barcelona and the attitude to the ownership of the Club is much different in Spain than in England, it is incomprehensible to the Barca fans that Reds are so loyal to what we see as 'our Club' when they accurately point out that it is in fact not a club but a commercial business. Barcelona is seen as the 'national' team of Catalonia, feelings of pride and belonging run very deep, the Spanish national side is held in even more contempt than England are by United fans. The fear in Catalonia is that Nunez is going to use the Barcelona 2000 project to bring in stock market flotation through the backdoor. Those of you who have been privileged to visit the Nou Camp will know what a marvellous set up is in place already but Barcelona 2000 is designed to improve the facilities and the site on which the ground is based yet further. The fans wish to see facilities improved but are fearful that, as Barcelona 2000 is a commercial venture, it will be used to justify the flotation of the whole club. The fans are organised at the moment into small groups of 'Ultras' based around districts of Barcelona or the bars where they meet up before and after a game, in addition there are supporters groups all over the world. L'Elefant Blau is a new departure for fans groups in Spain, it is more of an English model appealing across different supporters groups much the same as an Independent Supporters Association over here.graffiti

We were made to feel very welcome by L'Elefant Blau and they do have a significant following amongst ordinary fans, they have followed the developments at United very closely and expressed admiration for the way that United fans are standing up to the Club and BSkyB. In February IMUSA member and Professor of Management at London University, Jonathan Michie, is organising a conference, on football, at the University of London titled 'Corporate Governance of Professional Football' and L'Elefant Blau have agreed to attend. Their experience and knowledge will be invaluable to IMUSA and English supporters as a whole as we fight to wrest control of 'Our Clubs' from the hands of the current band of brigands that occupy the boardrooms. As supporters the time has come when we need to offer alternatives to the current structure, it is no longer sufficient for us to shout from the sidelines in opposition we need to put forward viable alternative structures and ownership models before the clubs are either all swallowed up by multinational conglomerates or bulldozed aside by corporate greed.

United may claim to be 'The World's Greatest Football Club' but when you have been to Barcelona, sat in the stadium and remember who has played for them (Koeman, Maradona, Cruyff, Romario, Rivaldo etc) the marketing man's claim rings a bit hollow. We all want our Club to be the 'Greatest in The World' but that desire is being held back by the lack of vision and ambition of the plc who see sticking the slogan on the Megastore bags as sufficient, our ambition as fans is much grander we want the real thing and we are going to fight on until we get it.

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