Barcelona cleared in smear campaign controversy

Barcelona did not commission an online smear campaign against current and former star players alongside potential presidential opponents, an external audit has found.

PricewaterhouseCoopers found that the club did not pay the company  I3 Ventures to promote their own messages both on Twitter and Facebook to discredit others, while it also did not find evidence of the club paying an inflated price for their services – clearing them of financial corruption.

The Catalan giants released a statement on Monday saying that they will open legal action against those who brought forward the allegations, which became known as ‘Barcagate’

“The board of directors instructs the club’s legal services to continue and, if necessary, bring the relevant legal action against those who have made false and unfounded accusations that have gravely damaged the institution’s image,” read the statement.

“After months of having lived with defamatory accusations on this matter, Barcelona asks those media outlets who made the charges of improper behaviour against our organisation to proceed to rectify that information, given that it has no basis and has been denied by a report that has been put together with unlimited access to the information requested about the club and its executives.”

The findings of Barcelona’s involvement with the company were revealed in February, after Barcelona issued a statement denying a report from Cadena Ser radio station claiming the club were paying a third party to damage the reputation of others.

Cadena Ser’s show El Larguero subsequently revealed documents from Barcelona which appeared to show the club paying a third party to damage the reputation of individuals, including their own players Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique, although the club have now been cleared of this.

The Catalan club always strenuously denied any truth in the reports, saying that they had neither paid nor promoted anyone to denounce or attack others – who have been opponents to the current board in some form at some point – online.

It was claimed by the Cadena Ser report that the reason for the Blaugrana paying companies to promote these messages were firstly to improve the image of current president Josep Maria Bartomeu and devalue the opinions of his opponents.

It was claimed that Barcelona paid the company I3 Ventures to promote their own messages both on Twitter and Facebook, with the report claiming they had access to the transactions.

Barca explained that their relationship with I3 involved “monitoring of social media with the aim of analysing both positive and negative messages about the organisation itself.”

A report in Diario Sport from February claimed Bartomeu handed the club’s four captains – including Messi and Pique – a dossier in a meeting at the time of the allegations with all the messages and confirmed that he broke relations with the company, making it clear that the club had not at any time entrusted the company with any derogatory comments.

Blaugrana club legends Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol and Pep Guardiola were among those who had been claimed were targeted, along with presidential hopefuls Agusti Benedito and Victor Font.

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