Bartomeu during his talk at the expo

Conference by vice president Josep Maria Bartomeu at the Foot Expo Forum Marrakesh 2013

The club’s vice president for sport Josep Maria Bartomeu has participated in a series of conferences at the third edition of the Foot Expo Forum Marrakesh 2013, which is being held in the Moroccan city on occasion of the FIFA Clubs World Cup FIFA. Bartomeu gave a talk on the Barça model and what it is doing to train and educate young sportspeople in the academy at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper and in the Masia residence. The vice president explained how potential players are scouted all around the world and brought to Barcelona, and La Masia, to receive not just academic education and football training, but also to be brought up as decent people – the prime example of this being Leo Messi, who was already part of the Barça youth system when he was just 13.

Almost one hundred people attended the lecture, and the question and answer session afterwards was particularly interesting, which touched upon an issue that affects Barça and many other big clubs, namely FIFA’s article 19 on the Status and Transfer of Players and its special clauses protecting minors. The text prevents children under 16 from the European Union, and under 18 from outside of the Union, from competing in official national competitions, unless they satisfy certain exceptions, for example that the player’s parents move address to the same country as their child’s club for non-football related reasons. Barça currently has four players that are affected by this FIFA regulation and therefore cannot play official matches, but Barça’s main concern, as Bartomeu said today is that “this regulation conditions the club’s training model and the possibility of continuing to bring in new players from outside of Spain and Europe. We’ll have to reappraise our model and stop looking abroad if no solution is found”.

Josep Maria Bartomeu called on FIFA to do something about the problem, saying that it “puts into question the Barça model, one that has been coaching players and persons for 30 years, and that has been such a proven success”. The vice president insisted that “la Masia and the academies at other clubs that have taken on such a duty to provide coaching, to help young footballers and to protect children, should be made exempt from this rule. We are asking FIFA, in the same way that it awards five stars for stadiums or medical centres, for it also to recognise academies that provide these functions. We will always support any initiative to protect and safeguard children, but we are proud of la Masia, an essential part the way our club runs. We believe that the best way to protect children is by guaranteeing access for them to chances in life. Academies should be rewarded for bringing up children in places where they learn about proper nutrition, get medical and education services, and enjoy some of the best facilities and best coaches, that give them a career opportunity and hope for the future”.

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