Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Benedito: "I feel heir to the 2003 project"

This blog had an exclusive interview with Barcelona presidential candidate Agustí Benedito.

PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES You are a business consultant. That is a somewhat vague concept. Can you make that a bit more concrete, give some examples of the work you do?
After having worked for 20 years in the family business [note: the benedito family has been for decades car dealers in barcelona], I decided to get involved in other professional projects that keep an eye on the future. They are long term projects in which I try to implement my management skills and my knowledge of business strategies. Although in recent months I have decided to move this to the background and to focus on our project for FC Barcelona.

Your job could create incompatibilities when you would be elected as president?
My professional activities are fully compatible with the presidency of FC Barcelona, as also the majority of the presidents in the history of the club have continued with their respective careers. Moreover, in my case, there won't be any conflicts of interest, unlike what has happened with the current board or what could happen with the professional activities of Sandro Rosell. And besides that, we are committed to a policy of full transparency and we will make public the personal estates of all members of our board.

DECISION TO TAKE PART IN THE ELECTIONS Do you remember when the idea to run for president of Barça first crossed your mind?
It's not about one moment, the idea starts to grow and develops through discussions with many Barcelona fans, and even by listening to the people next to me in the stands of the Camp Nou. We are a group of more than 200 people who share a same vision of a club, the same concerns, and we have found each other. And we're leading a much broader movement.

You already thought about it before you left the club on 26 February last year?
When I left the club, I had no intention at all of being a candidate. We seriously began to consider the idea several months later.

JOAN LAPORTA You know Joan Laporta, the current president of FC Barcelona, since 1996. What were your first impressions after having met Laporta back then? What kind of person was he at that time?
It has been seven years of working for Barcelona outside the club, to start with in the elections of 1997 and later as founders of the 'Elefant Blau'. When I met Laporta, we were Barcelona fans who shared the same ideals for the club: youth, renewal, honesty, transparency and participation of the club members. I feel heir to those ideals and to the 2003 project, that won the elections with a strong support from the club members and has proved to be successful. I continue to think that that project, when it is renewed and revised, is the best one for the club.

Could you already predict in the 1990s what has happened since then? Joan Laporta has surprised you, both in a positive and a negative way?
I could not imagine what would happen. I am not a fortune-teller. Joan Laporta has undergone a process of growing vanity, an evolution towards personalism and megalomania, which has seriously damaged that winning project of 2003.

DIRECTOR Why have you never been appointed as a member of the board of directors of Barça, not in 2003 - when there maybe weren't enough places to fulfil the demands of the different factions - nor in later years when many directors left the club and the president seemed to replace them with people from his closest entourage, where you have been part of.
I have never linked my commitment towards Barcelona to the chance of holding some position. Only once, at the beginning of the mandate in 2003, Laporta raised the possibility of me being a director, but my personal situation prevented me from accepting it. During the next six years, the clashes with Laporta became more and more frequent, but I continued to work for the club, trying to defend the original project and ideals. I believed that I could have more influence from within the club, and not with confrontations in public, through the media. And so I stayed until what is known as the 'Uzbekistan case', when president Laporta tried to make a profit from the sale of Mallorca, acting as intermediary with a commercial partner of FC Barcelona.

COMMISSIONS You've been a member of the social commission and the sports commission of the club. Those tasks are little known by many Barcelona fans. What were you concretely doing during those years, from 2003 to 2009?
I had no power of decision because I was never part of the board, but they were six years of intense work in the day-to-day of the club, both at the social commission and at the sports commissions that deals with all professional sports sections of the club. For example, during my collaboration with the basketball section, I am particularly proud to have defended before the board of directors the risky choice of Xavi Pascual [current coach of the basketball team], as the substitute of Dusko Ivanovic. We are now seeing the results of that.

BEING A LEADER You have always been in the second - or third - row, while since a few months now you give interview after interview, you lead a project, you have meetings with fan clubs and journalists, and so on. How was the transition to this new role? Was it something natural or are you still adapting?
It is not the first time that I lead a project because I did the same as chief executive of the group of family businesses, and in recent years I have also stimulated other projects. I'm used to coordinate teams and to make decisions. But in the end, the most important thing is that I am the visible face of the group of people behind the project.

2016 Some people say that your real goal is not the elections on 13 June but the next elections, that in theory will be held in 2016, just as the goal of Laporta's candidacy in 2003 was perhaps not the 2003 elections but the next ones. Are you a patient person?
We cannot think about 2016 because the 2010 elections are crucial for the club and that's why we have been working for five months. It is nevertheless true that if we don't win and no one implements our ideas, I do not exclude to continue defending our project because behind me there are many active people, who have a same way of understanding the club and whose commitment goes beyond one election process. And I have been working for the club for 13 years, so you can imagine that I'm patient. First seven hard years outside of the club, where we were even accused of being anti-Barcelona during the time of the 'Elefant Blau'. And then six years inside the club doing ground work, that does not have any media impact but which is fundamental for the club.

this was the first part of this interview. you can read the second part here. you can read an exclusive interview with barcelona presidential candidate jaume guixà here.

Read more:
Benedito putting emphasis on financial transparency
Ferrer has biggest media impact
Benedito: "I don't plan to announce transfers"