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Susana Monje: 'The club has never been in a better financial situation'

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Susana Monje: 'The club has never been in a better financial situation'

Barça's economic vice-president spoke to La Vanguardia, discussing the Neymar renewal and the financial difficulties

As the economic vice-president of FC Barcelona, Susana Monje (November 14th, 1972) faces challenges that will influence the club’s future whether it is on a sport scale (Neymar’s new contract) or institutional scale (Camp Nou restructuring). She talked with La Vanguardia at the stadium’s offices: “It has gotten old on us”, she says while strolling through it.

The non-signing of Nolito can make one think Barça has financial difficulties. What’s the truth over this concern?

You don’t have to confuse the financial wealth, which is good, with the limits from status. The FIFA sanction conditioned us and we had to sign a lot, which, added to the treble, raised the salarial mass and made that the ratio which controls that the club is never overburdened in debt wasn’t fulfilled. We have two years to settle it.

But there is money in the bank?

Yes, for sure. The club has never been in a better situation in the last five or six years. The worst is gone. The revenues go on being at the level of the best clubs in the world.

Information is missing, then…

Maybe one problem is speaking about this only once a year in the assembly, which leads to doubts and comments like these. We have closed the semester as expected and the reduction of the debt has been resumed. Everything is right, so we will be able to use the resources Barça had, have and will get.

Starting from next summer?

Yes. There’s always money to sign players. And I will tell you something, the most important signing for the coming year will be Neymar.

And?

Everything is alright. The player is happy, that’s the most important thing.

But it won’t be announced until July…

Right now, what matters is focusing on the trophies this season. There is time. Neymar has a contract until 2018. We have maintained the talks that were necessary. Here, there is a project that Neymar is really interested in and Barça has the means to handle the contract renewal, even if it is not easy having the number one, Messi, the numbers two and three. The economic management allows it. Duties are done.

And the new contracts of Busquets and Rakitic?

I am sure this summer will be full of activities. But our signing for the coming year will be Neymar.

The salaries are a problem. In the last fiscal year, they reached 73% of the budget. They will continue increasing, and the bonuses for titles, considering the team's situation, will come. How does one solve this issue? Is it sustainable?

We just came through a perfect blow. We had the treble mixing up with the FIFA sanction and even with that the club could assume all of this because we had revenues and savings. The club was strong and sane and resisted. We have a starting XI which I would change for nothing and you have to pay for this. The payroll is high and we have to get used to this, but always within a limit.

What is the limit?

The limit is 70% of the global payroll, a limit imposed by ourselves in order to have a financial coherence. We cannot either think that we will be able to get ratios very low because if we want this level of performance, we have to pay.

Where is the solution?

I would sign for a global rationalisation, on a european scale.

Utopian.

We have to strengthen a European league from an area controlled by the clubs. We depend upon entities like UEFA or FIFA whose management is improvable, and that is a clear goal Barça has chosen.

What about the Spanish league?

It can go on obviously, but with less matches. You can’t build a strong European league without strong national leagues too. But we must go on. UEFA said enough with the tycoons which were breaking the market rules, but if the clubs get involved to have a better control on the competition, everything is going to improve.

Do the TV rights would also be agreed globally?

Yes, it would work the way it is in basketball. The competition is not owned of any confederation, it belongs to the clubs. The financial fair play must reach the salaries at some point because otherwise we’ll live in a continual inflationary spiral.

When your predecessor Javier Faus showed the numbers for the new Camp Nou project, he spoke about establishing the debt at €200M. How will the works begin in the 2017 summer if currently the debt is €328M?

We’ll continue to have that objective. Besides, that’s what the socís voted in the referendum. We will reduce the debt this year to €290M or €280M and when stadium works begin we’ll be much closer of that €200MM debt goal. Plus, if we move on with the construction, we’ll anticipate future incomes which will help to reduce the debt.

The jersey sponsorship and the renewal of Nike’s contract are keys, but the agreements haven't been closed. Are there any nervousness in the board?

Everything’s fine. We still have to agree on the jersey, Nike and the stadium’s last name. We are talking about multi year contracts that we must negotiate properly to avoid they get outdated quickly. What we did was to provide some calmness to the marketing staff and withdraw the voting from the assembly. In this cases it’s necessary to create an environment of peace and discretion. I’m sure when everything’s ready it will be revealed and we’ll realize the importance of the contracts.

Isn’t questionable to spend €1.8M in law services due to the many litigations?

We are worried about every expenditure. There are no big ones or small ones, we are doing monthly tracking to reduce them as much as possible, included this one. The club’s incomes are now €600M and that entails a lot of contracts and movements. Barcelona is a global club from the local community, a matter studied by Harvard as a model of success, but that activity increase means an increase in the management expenditures.

But there is a contrast between that idealized model and the constant judicial objections that, for instance, question the legality of Neymar’s contract.

The case is on trial and we’ll see the final resolution. We keep stating that everything was made legally. If there’s any complaint, the judges investigate and you can’t avoid that. When you have a hegemony and a leadership and there’s people trying to stop you, there’s a price you have to pay. Neymar’s signing hurt some sensitivities that are still aching today.

When you apply strictly business concepts in the club’s functioning, don’t you run the risk of losing some essential aspects along the way?

I disagree with that. Some business management criteria are applied but not only that. Barça has social conscience in its management that no other club has.

For example?

We have the cheapest season tickets among the top clubs, we voted in a referendum before the socís the stadium renovations, we have an important social area, a foundation with great strength, the socí is an essential part of the club...I believe the social conscience of our club is unique. The socí's scrutiny guarantees that we maintain this level. We all feel like owners. That’s what makes us great.

So in that sense, aren’t you bothered somehow about the Qatar Airways sponsorship?

I see a difference between a commercial branding strategy from other issues Barcelona should not be involved in. Barcelona has its own line, it established a commercial alliance with Qatar Foundation and then with Qatar Airways and I’ve always seen that correct.

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