Joan Laporta

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This is a Catalan name. The first family name is Laporta and the second is Estruch.
Joan Laporta
Joan Laporta - 001.jpg
Member of the Catalan Parliament
In office
29 November 2010 – 17 December 2012
Constituency Barcelona
38th President of FC Barcelona
In office
15 June 2003 – 30 June 2010
Preceded by Enric Reyna
Succeeded by Sandro Rosell
Personal details
Born Joan Laporta i Estruch
(1962-06-29) 29 June 1962 (age 52)
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Nationality Spanish
Political party Democràcia Catalana
Spouse(s) Constanza Echevarría (?-2008)
Children Pol Laporta i Echevarría, Guillem Laporta i Echevarría, Joan Laporta i Echevarría
Alma mater University of Barcelona
Profession Lawyer
Website www.laporta2010.cat

Joan Laporta i Estruch (Catalan pronunciation: [ʒuˈan ɫəˈpɔrtə]; born 29 June 1962) is a Spanish politician and former president of Futbol Club Barcelona between 2003 and 2010.

Laporta is a lawyer (he graduated from the University of Barcelona) with his own firm, Laporta & Arbós, which has important firms as clients. Laporta was married to Constanza Echevarría and has three sons, Pol, Guillem and Jan. He served as MP in the Parliament of Catalonia between 2010 and 2012.

Career at Barcelona[edit]

He started his involvement with FC Barcelona leading the "Elefant Blau" (Blue Elephant), a group which opposed former president Josep Lluís Núñez and which, in 1998, tried, unsuccessfully, a vote of no confidence against him.

In the 2003 elections, Laporta did not start as the favourite, but his charisma grew during the electoral campaign and he finally won against the expected victor, publicist Lluís Bassat, in part because of a widely published (and ultimately unfulfilled) promise to bring David Beckham to Barcelona. Laporta had the support of other young businessmen of Barcelona, such as Sandro Rosell. Laporta quickly became a media star, even more than some of the players.

First season in charge[edit]

His first season (2003–2004) as President would prove to be a watershed for the club, but not without initial instability. The club situation was one of bitter unhappiness and disappointment amongst both fans and players after the club failed to meet their own standards to match Real Madrid's success in the early 2000s, having not won trophies since 1999.

Arrival of Frank Rijkaard[edit]

With Laporta's arrival, and that of football superstar Ronaldinho (his solution signing after Beckham's decision to turn down the club) as well as new manager Frank Rijkaard among others, the club was forced to embark on a new phase, having elected a new, young and largely untested managerial board along with him. Laporta also decided to fight against the threat of violence outside the Camp Nou stadium, specially from the Boixos Nois (Mad Boys) gang, and faced insults and death threats from them. Police investigation revealed they had planned to kidnap him. To exacerbate the situation, the 2003–04 season began abysmally results-wise, with Laporta constantly having to call for the fans' understanding and patience with him and Rijkaard as the club slowly phased out underachieving players from the old guard in order to rebuild a new-look side around Ronaldinho.

Laporta also had to spur his board to foster creative business ideas to raise revenue, and in recent years, that new style of management eventually succeeded in turning around the fortunes of the club with the team spectacularly returning to form and finishing second after being at the bottom of the table in 2003–2004, and then finally managing to win La Liga titles both in 2004–05 and in 2005–2006. During this period, the inherited massive financial debt started to be cut down, and only two players remained from the original team that did not win a major title in six years, with players like Deco, Samuel Eto'o and Edmílson as the new starlets, around Ronaldinho and a core of home-grown players like Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernández, Víctor Valdés and Oleguer Presas. The club finally won the UEFA Champions League on 17 May 2006, for only their second time in history, as well as that year's league trophy.

Criticism[edit]

Nonetheless, Laporta's management of the sports sections of the club, especially the basketball section, has been controversial. On 2 June 2005 he faced the resignation of five members of the club's board of directors including Sandro Rosell. They accused him of having changed for the worse as a person, having adopted authoritarian traits and harbouring ambitions of power.

In October 2005, he faced a scandal, when his brother-in-law and member of the board of directors in charge of security, Alejandro Echevarría, was revealed to be a member of the Francisco Franco Foundation. After several denials by Echevarría and Laporta, contested by documents shown by a former member of the board of directors, Laporta was finally forced to accept Echevarría's resignation. Echevarría continued, however, to be close to the club and he organized the security during the celebrations of the 2005-2006 Liga championship.

Laporta's own political history added to the complications surrounding the Echevarría scandal, as his politics are diametrically opposed to those implied by Echevarría's membership of the Francisco Franco Foundation. Laporta is a self-described Catalan nationalist and has been identified on several occasions as supporting the independence of Catalonia from Spain. In the early 1990s, he and fellow Catalan politicians Pilar Rahola and Ángel Colom founded the now-defunct "Partit per la independencia", which supported Catalan separatism.[1] He was also an active participant at the controversial Frankfurt Book Fair of 2007, at which Catalan language and culture were the special featured invitees, but not including other Catalonia-based authors who wrote in other languages, such as Spanish. At the fair, Laporta stated that he "hopes that FC Barcelona continues to be a tool to promote the Catalan language and culture" and to the contrary, he would feel obligated "to create the Catalan Republic of Barcelona".[2]

Laporta has been accused of mixing the club with his own political agenda.

Re-election as club president[edit]

There was some discussion about when exactly Laporta's mandate started, with the board of directors holding one opinion and the opposition another. One club member went to the court and, on 19 July 2006 a judge ruled that the first eight days of his presidency in June 2003 counted as the first year of his four-year term; his term had therefore expired and new elections were called.[3] Temporarily, the club was ruled by a management committee led by the economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin.

The elections were to be held on 3 September 2006 but they turned out not to be necessary. On 22 August, Barcelona confirmed Joan Laporta's presidency for another four years after no other would-be candidate received the 1,804 signatures required to stand.

Vote of No Confidence[edit]

The poor results of the sports sections, especially in football, together with concerns about his leadership style, resulted in a censure motion which took place on 6 July 2008 and was led by Oriol Giralt. Exit polls showed that 60.60% of the 39,389 votes cast were against Laporta. However, even though he lost the overall vote, the necessary 66% to hold new elections was not achieved.

Following the results, it was speculated that Laporta would resign due to pressure from fellow directors. This would have resulted in then vice-President Albert Vicens taking over from Laporta with Ferran Soriano replacing Vicens as the main vice-president.[4] However these rumours were quickly dismissed by Laporta. On 10 July 2008, eight of the seventeen board members – vice-presidents Albert Vicens, Ferran Soriano and Marc Ingla, and directors Evarist Murtra, Toni Rovira, Xavier Cambra, Clàudia Vives-Fierro and Josep Lluís Vilaseca – resigned following Laporta's confirmation that he will stay as President of the club despite the opinion of the members. In a press statement, they revealed that they resigned due to "discrepancies in the way to act after the result of the motion."

The return of Pep Guardiola[edit]

After dismissing Frank Rijkaard, Laporta appointed the untested and inexperienced Josep Guardiola, the team captain at the end of the Dream Team era. Guardiola's only experience as a coach was with the B team the previous season (which won promotion from the 4th tier to the 3rd). Although the team started poorly, losing the first match to Numancia and drawing the second, Barcelona had the best season in its history, winning the treble of the League, the Cup, and the Champions League. The Spanish Super Cup and UEFA Super Cup followed in August, and the FIFA Club World Cup in December.

Political activities[edit]

Laporta has long been involved in politics. In 1996, he joined the Independence Party, formed by Pilar Rahola and Àngel Colom, former members of the Republican Left of Catalonia.[5]

Laporta has long held ambitions to enter Spanish politics after leaving office as president of FC Barcelona. He has in the past been outspoken about his political affiliations: he supports Catalan independence from Spain. FC Barcelona is seen by many as a symbol of Catalonia, a generally accepted fact which Laporta often emphasizes [6] but has been criticized by non-Catalan fans of the team.[7][8]

Following the end of his second term as president, Laporta formed the independence-seeking political party Democràcia Catalana (Catalan Democracy). In the summer of 2010, Laporta's party merged with other extra-parliamentary pro-independence parties and grassroots movements into a political platform called Catalan Solidarity for Independence. Laporta was elected its president.

In the Catalan elections of 28 November 2010, the new party managed to achieve 4 seats in the 135-member Catalan Parliament, making it the sixth largest party out of seven.[9] Laporta was elected in the circumscription of Barcelona.

In 2011, Laporta stepped down as president of the Catalan Solidarity for Independence and left the party.

Trophies won by club during presidency[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.marca.com/edicion/marca/futbol/1a_division/barcelona/es/desarrollo/1108838.html
  2. ^ http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2007/10/10/espana/1192038357.html
  3. ^ Reuters: Judge orders Barcelona to hold presidential election
  4. ^ Sport.es Laporta dimitirá el jueves (translations to Catalan and English available)
  5. ^ ¿Un líder para la independencia?
  6. ^ http://www.goal.com/en/news/12/spain/2010/03/04/1817951/barcelona-president-joan-laporta-postpones-political-career
  7. ^ http://www.lavanguardia.es/lv24h/20091009/53801288893.html
  8. ^ http://www.fcbarcelonanews.com/laporta-called-extremadura-president-an-imbecile/
  9. ^ http://www.avui.cat/noticia/article/3-politica/17-politica/337660-ciu-guanya-les-eleccions-al-parlament-de-catalunya.html
Preceded by
Enric Reyna
President of Barcelona
2003–2010
Succeeded by
Sandro Rosell