Barcelona blocked by La Liga from registering new players before the season

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<p><figcaption class=Photo: Joan Monfort/AP

Barcelona are still unable to register their summer signings after La Liga rejected an attempt to use the club’s own funds to inflate the value of two of the asset sales they had resorted to to balance the books and strengthen their squad.

The intention is now to turn to a fourth extraordinary source of income with the sale of a further 25% of their content production company, Barça Studios, for an estimated €100 million in the hope that it will allow them to include new arrivals such as Robert Lewandowski, Andreas Christensen and Jules Koundé in the squad for the opening match against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday night.

Barcelona had stood to benefit from €667m (£562m) from the sale of two packages of future television rights and had hoped it would help them comply with La Liga’s financial fair play rules. They also announced the sale of just under 25% of Barça Studios, the third of the so-called “palancas” or economic “levers” they had pulled this summer. In total, including a new sponsorship deal with Spotify, player departures and increased revenue, Barcelona said they had raised more than €850 million as they seek to improve their squad and fix a financial crisis.

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But the league’s audit found the amount Barcelona had received directly from investors Sixth Street for two television rights packages of 10% and 15% respectively was just €517m. The remaining €150 million was paid by the club itself, according to the Spanish radio station Cadena Cope. The operation is legal, approved by the club’s auditors Grant Thornton, but the league has recalculated the benefit on the basis that €150 million of the amount is not new income.

Having spent more on transfers than any club in Spain and yet to reduce their wage bill sufficiently, it means Barcelona are still short of the threshold where they can register all their players in La Liga.

Instead of selling those parcels directly to Sixth Street, Barcelona started a venture called Locksley Investments, Cope said. That company bought the club’s TV rights on a permanent deal, with Sixth Street buying the two packages over the next 25 years. Barcelona then spent €150 million of their own money to buy the rights from the 26th year. It made the overall accounting value of the deal bigger now, announcing two deals, the first for 10% of the club’s La Liga TV rights over 25 years, the second for a further 15%.

When the second deal was finalised, they announced that the club would receive €315m immediately and that the operation would result in a benefit of €400m. Barça president Joan Laporta had also expressed hope that the league would share their interpretation of the criteria. It hasn’t.

Frenkie de Jong's departure would help Barça's financial situation

Frenkie de Jong’s departure would help Barça’s financial situation Photo: Joan Monfort/AP

Barcelona are unhappy with the interpretation that was used. The league has strict financial fair play rules – the “salary cap”, based mainly on a calculation of income against the cost of the squad – which, rather than punitive, is preventive: if a club’s spending on the squad exceeds the limit set by the squad. league, an automated system simply does not allow them to register players.

Laporta had said he hoped to avoid going to a fourth lever, although the board had already approved that move should it become necessary, which it now appears to be. At members’ meetings this spring and autumn, his administration, which inherited a severe financial crisis, had previously been given permission to sell a percentage of future television rights (up to 25% for up to 25 years), Barca Studios and 49% of the club’s licensing arm BLM. The latter has not happened yet.

Barcelona continue to try to move players on, with the potential departure of Frenkie de Jong particularly significant due to the size of his wages and amortization. They are negotiating pay cuts with senior players and club captains Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba and intend to make more signings.

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