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The president of FC Barcelona Josep Maria Bartomeu has demanded respect for the club in his opening speech at the Assembly of Delegate Members held this Saturday in the Palau Blaugrana and for “the plurality of opinions among our members. We can never allow FCB to be manipulated as an instrument for political ideas, whatever they are. Nobody can take over our crest or our flag.”

He was, of course, referring to the turbulent situation in Catalonia at the moment. “We know that Barça is more than a club, that the Camp Nou is and always has been a place for freedom of speech, harmony and respect. And it shall continue to be. I said the other day that we need to respect everyone, both majorities and minorities. Those who think one way or the other, and all persons and institutions and their ideas.”

“Nobody can doubt Barça’s commitment to Catalan society … the club shall always defend the principles of democracy, freedom of speech and the right to decide, but always in full respect of the multiple opinions among our members.”

“What we need is dialogue, respect and sport. The members must help to show the world the image of who we are: a democratic club, which respects discrepancies, that supports dialogue and that sets an example of civic duty and harmony”.

Liga future

He added that “it is the club’s intention to continue to play in the Spanish Liga, and our participation today is totally guaranteed. We shall never put the viability of our institution and its involvement in all competitions at risk. And our aim in doing so shall be to win them, and represent you with the dignity and prestige that you deserve.”

He also reiterated his words of a few days earlier regarding the imprisoned Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, presidents of the Assemblea Nacional Catalana and Òmnium Cultural. “It is inadmissible that a democratic state in the 21st century should have people in prison because of their political views” he insisted.

Solid and rising

Bartomeu then switched subject to the club’s finances. “This is a solid and growing situation” he was pleased to say, referring also to the Observatori Blaugrana, the survey of its membership.

He was self-critical in his analysis of the failure of some teams to meet expectations last season, but claimed that the club knows where it went wrong “and has taken decisions to ensure improvements”. He was speaking in particular reference to football and basketball, while not forgetting to praise the achievements in handball, roller hockey and women’s sports.

The president says there are five main target areas for 2017/18: for the football team to remain among the global elite, to continue fostering progress at La Masia, to consolidate the restructuring of the other professional sports sections, to develop the Espai Barça and to further the club’s globalisation strategy.

Respect for Valverde

The president commended Luis Enrique on three fine years and also heralded the great start by new coach Ernesto Valverde, saying that “we have always admired him as a manager and he fits the Barça profile perfectly. He believes in the academy, he works hard and he has technical knowledge. He has already won everyone’s affection and respect.”

La Masia is still the pillar on which the future is sustained. “Not just for maintaining our style, but also and more importantly as a response to the inflation in modern football.”

After PSG was willing to pay 222 million euros for Neymar Jr this summer, the market is clearly a very different one.

But at the end of the day, “all of Barça’s professional teams are top of their leagues. That may just be a one-off situation, and it’s the end of the season that counts, but it’s still a sign that we are doing things right.”

Naming the Camp Nou

Another prime target for 2017/18 is “to continue working on progress to make sure that we get the best stadium in the world.”

Construction of the Johan Cruyff Stadium is already under way, and one of the next jobs is to find a company to append its name to the Camp Nou. “Things are not only on the right track, but we are going to make more income from this than we originally expected” said the president, who announced that an extraordinary assembly will be held in the second semester to vote on the best proposal.

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