FC Barcelona has adopted a system called Seient Lliure that allows season ticket holders to sell their seats when they can’t or aren’t interested in attending certain matches at the stadium. It’s pretty straightforward: the seat holder downloads an app or access the website, tells the club his seat will be available, and that’s it! If anyone buys it, the member gets 50% of the fee paid by the buyer. The other 50% goes to the club. If we enter into details, it’s actually less, given the there’s 21% from the full price that goes to taxes, plus another 10% that goes to the club for “managing the seat".

Season ticket holders are free to sell as many tickets as they want to, but they cannot earn back more than 95% of the full value of a season ticket. That’s it. That’s the whole info members and media knew about this service.

Seient Lliure has been going on for a few seasons, and there had been one major complaint about it: socis aren’t attending matches as they once were, and the Camp Nou is now full of tourists instead of actual fans. While the club may say it represents a “lack of commitment” from the season ticket holders, they are pretty happy that the tourists will also pay to visit our Museum, spend money at the Nike Store, and buy meals and drinks to be consumed during the matches.

So, up until now, the Barcelona board was making money from the season ticket holders that pay every single year for the right to have their own seats. Now many of these seats were being “rented” to tourists that would end up spending more than your average club member would when attending a match.

Today, things changed as TV3 made shocking claims, the club is making way more money than they should with this system, up to 17 million euros more.

Xavi Torres, one of the best sporting journalists in Spain, revealed earlier today that the club was selling “VIP Experience” tickets for up to 1500 euros on selected matches. The investigation was able to identify 10 high profile matches from the last 3 seasons where those tickets were sold. The thing is: the 50/50 formula for the Seient Lliure tickets was being ignored. Instead of getting 520 euros (after taxes) for a seat that was sold for 1.500 euros, socis were getting 88 euros. That’s 16% of the total they should have received.

FC Barcelona earned up to 17 million euros just from these VIP Experience seats during the last 3 seasons, and gave a lower percentage back to the original season ticket holders than they should have. According to who's likely to be Barcelona's next President, Jordi Cardoner, it's not an issue.

Cardoner held a press conference to explain the situation. He said that the 50/50 rules applies only to the cost of the seat itself. While the club did sell tickets for up to 1500 euros, the actual price of the sear was 225 euros and the remaining 1275 euros didn’t “count”, because it was related to “services”, such as: catering, parking spots etc.

He went on to add that while the club was indeed profiting from these services, the difference between what the season ticket holders , and the club received would go to fund the other services all club members make use of, such as: free access to children under 14 years old to the stadium, pay the footballers salaries and make new signings.

Cardoner seemed shaken up and nervous during the whole presser, even saying that Xavi Torres “didn’t check his sources correctly”, and that “it was a shame that "our television" TV3, would publish "such news about our club”. Strange to say the least.

When pressed by a few journalists about the subject, Cardoner revealed that the club has never hidden this information from the socis: it’s all been “clearly” presented at our yearly financial reports and all the members had to do was to ask for this information, or call the club about it. He revealed the club receives up to 25.000 calls from members each year, and over 6.000 visits to the offices.

So, basically, the VIP Experience fiasco can be summed up like this:

  • Seient Lliure has been allowing the club to host thousands of tourists during the last few years, and profiting from the fact they spend way more than Catalan socis.
  • It was clear that season ticket holder were getting 50%, after taxes, from whatever price the club managed to sell their tickets, but the club has been redirecting up to 1300 euros from each sale to a fund that would be used to “benefit all socis equally”. That information has never been given clearly before, showing a big lack of transparency.
  • When asked about it, Cardoner said the plan was not for members to sell up to 20 tickets each season, when the actual system allows it and club members weren’t even aware of the “extra services” and hefty ticket resales.
  • Cardoner attacked Xavi Torres’ capacity as a journalist and criticized Catalan TV3 for making claims he had just confirmed.

Once again, yet another scandal involves the club's management, and lead to even more questions about their integrity. We can hope that continuous issues like that will lead more club members to demand for changes at the club, but it does seem unlikely as Bartomeu was elected back in 2015 with over 25.000 votes, as the club was suspended from making transfers and was directly accused of tax fraud (later confirmed) in the Neymar signing.

This time, it's about the club members' money, something that's never taken lightly by Catalans.

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