Emili Rousaud has told ESPN he believes Barcelona are merely “posturing” after the club revealed it would take legal action against the former vice president on Monday.
The comments come as the pressure continues to mount on president Josep Maria Bartomeu at the crisis-hit club. Rousaud was one of six members of the board of directors to resign last week due to disagreements with Bartomeu over how the club is run.
As well as in-fighting among the board, fans have called for Bartomeu’s resignation in recent home matches, while players have publicly criticised the club’s hierarchy, too.
Barca announced they are pursuing “criminal action against Rousaud in defence of the honour of the club and its employees” after the former vice president alleged a high-ranking executive had been embezzling money out of the club.
Rousaud stands by his statements and says there is proof of corruption behind the scenes at Camp Nou. In a statement released on Tuesday, he said Barca’s lawsuit could itself constitute a crime of false accusation and suggested its real purpose is to stain his personal honour.
“I would say that posturing is the right word,” Rousaud told ESPN when asked if he felt the lawsuit launched by Barca had been frivolous and done to protect the club’s image more than anything else.
“They say there has been no corruption, which is what I disagree with. For me, the fact they have divided contracts and bills — and, in addition, one of them is with a company based in a fiscal paradise — to avoid the club’s internal controls speaks of corruption. [The internal controls] are there to guarantee that the contracts are adjusted to the market price and that just services are contracted.
“It’s not necessary to wait for the final results [of an external audit]. It’s obvious that, in this case, they have evidently acted in bad faith.
There have been problems bubbling under the surface for a while at Camp Nou, but things have grown more heated since the revelation in February that Barca paid a third-party company to smear players, potential presidents and club legends online. The scandal has become known in the local media as ‘Barcagate.’
Bartomeu denied any knowledge of the Facebook accounts in question and rescinded the club’s contract with the company, I3 Ventures, who he said had been contracted to monitor social media.
Rousaud alleges that the value of the contract with I3 was inflated and was broke down to avoid being picked up internally. In an interview last week, he claimed that an executive — although not someone on the board of directors — had been making money on the deal.
Barca have ordered an external audit into the relationship with I3 from PriceWaterhouseCoopers. The audit has been held up due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Rousaud, who was set to run as Bartomeu’s heir in next year’s presidential elections (Bartomeu can’t run again having served two terms) has been criticised for not speaking out sooner but he insists he raised his grievances while he was still part of the board.
“It annoyed me that people, including the club’s spokesman, asked why I didn’t complain when I was in the inside,” Rousaud added. “I did — so that question is shameless. When I was still a member of the board, I was insisting that we clean this up and I believe that is the reason why I now find myself on the outside, because I complained.
“If I would have looked the other way and not given it importance and demanded responsibility be taken, I would possibly still be on the board.”
As well as the fallout from Barcagate, Rousaud also clashed with fellow board members during discussions over reducing the players’ wages due to the financial repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I have zero criticism towards the players,” he said. “They have done what was asked of them and more, with the additional contribution to make up the salaries of the rest of the club’s employees. But what was asked of them, from my point of view, is insufficient to cover the deficit in revenue that we’re going to have.
“It’s lamentable to see that other clubs, like Real Madrid, have obtained a bigger reduction from their players [10-20% of their annual salary] than us. We are talking about a 70% wage reduction to their monthly salary, which is around five of six percent of their annual salary.
“I considered the proposal made by the club at the time lacking in ambition given the economic problems that the club has to face. But that’s an internal disagreement. The issue with Barcagate is, from my point of view, a clear case of corruption.”
Despite everything that has happened, Rousaud says he’s still motivated at the thought of one day becoming the president of Barca and wouldn’t rule out putting a team together to run in the 2021 elections.