BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu faces a vote of censure after club members on Thursday gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on his future.
The vote will be held after the signatures are validated, which could take a few weeks. Bartomeu and the board of directors would have to step down if two thirds of the votes are against them, and new elections would have to be scheduled.
Barcelona said 20,687 signatures were submitted calling for the vote of censure. A minimum of 16,520 signatures, the equivalent to 15% of all members, were needed. The signatures were presented within the period of 14 working days since the ballots were provided by the club.
Barcelona said the board has the right to “invalidate any ballot papers that are not sufficiently accredited and may make whatever inquiries are necessary in order to ascertain their authenticity.”
The opposition members had announced their intention to remove Bartomeu from the presidency after Lionel Messi told the club last month he wanted to leave amid one of its worst crises ever.
Messi criticized Barcelona club directors last season and said he did not like the direction the club was headed. He later personally accused Bartomeu of not keeping his promise to let him leave for free at the end of the season.
Pressure on Bartomeu increased after the team’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, one of the worst in the club’s history. The defeat prompted Bartomeu to announce big changes at the club and call for new presidential elections for next March.
Also Thursday, former coach Quique Setién, who was replaced by Ronald Koeman after the loss to Bayern, released a statement saying he planned to take legal action against the club because of how he was let go. He said it wasn’t until Wednesday that he was officially told that he was fired.