Barça headquarters elections (Toni Padilla)

“This election is not like the others. Before their headquarters were full of people. But with the pandemic, everything is different “, explains a volunteer from Xavi Vilajoana’s campaign. The coronavirus has completely changed the way we approach the Barça presidential election. And, in return, he has changed the role of the headquarters, one of Barça’s hallmarks. When an election comes, the city is filled with pre-candidate venues. “The headquarters is still important, but with the pandemic we now need to have more signature collection points than ever before, so priority has been given to contacting people nearby to have as many collection points open as possible,” they say from the team of Emili Rousaud. Some candidates offer to go get the signature at the partners house, in fact. If in previous elections the partner used to approach the candidate, now it is the candidate who is chasing the partner.

“In the 2015 elections, everything had more life. People were entering the headquarters. Now people are afraid of crowded spaces, ”complains Jordi Farré at his headquarters, where he offers to taste pizzas by chef Fabian Martín, who won a world pizza competition in New York. A venue similar to the one in 2015, designed to attract people with a table football and a small goal to shoot. It is the exception, the other headquarters have been made thinking of collecting signatures and making live videos on the Internet, a symbol of the new times. The headquarters of the pre-candidates are divided into two groups: those located near the Camp Nou, the area with the highest density of members, and those in the city center. Thus, Toni Freixa is the only one who has it outside Barcelona for a few meters, in Collblanc, already inside L’Hospitalet. “The Baix Llobregat is an area full of members, which breathes Barcelonanism,” they explain. Emili Rousaud, who has the smallest headquarters, has it right in front of where the old stadium of Les Corts was. “For the signatures we have opted for a tent at the stadium and look for other points,” they explain. In fact, in the previous elections one of the keys to collecting signatures was the tents at the stadium especially on match days. But without spectators, only Laporta and Rousaud have done so this year. “You have to pay money when few people pass by, it wasn’t worth it,” says Jordi Farré’s team, which also has its headquarters in Les Corts, on Carrer Numancia. Lluís Fernández Alà has no headquarters at the moment.

The others are in the center of Barcelona. Xavi Vilajoana has chosen the Rambla de Catalunya, and has filled the street with balloons to draw attention. “It’s not just a space to collect signatures, it’s a place to have visibility on a central street,” they explain. Víctor Font has its largest headquarters, on the ground floor of a hotel on Carrer Balmes, where more than 100 members of its volunteer team can pass. In addition to the space to collect signatures, they have a room to answer members by phone, make live videos and meetings. “In passing, support is given to the hotel sector,” they say at their headquarters. Agustí Benedito is based in Pau Claris, on the Diagonal, and Joan Laporta, in the Moritz in Ronda Sant Antoni, where they also organize talks. And all while trying to comply with security protocols against covid-19. Laporta headquarters, in fact, has an automatic people counter at the door. And when the recommended figure is exceeded inside, members have to wait on the street. “Luckily, there have been queues outside, a good sign,” they say, as some members take pictures in a photocall at the entrance.

All sites visited by ARA follow security protocols. And its workers have taken business courses to follow protocols. At the entrance to the Font headquarters, a hotel worker takes your temperature and offers you hand ice. At the Vilajoana headquarters, the partner grabs a pen from a wall, to sign and take it away, to prevent different people from touching the same material.

It’s time to reinvent itself

Nevertheless, the pace of people passing by Laporta’s headquarters, where the club’s anthems keep playing, is very high. Víctor Font, who spends most of the day at the headquarters greeting members, also sees with satisfaction the rhythm of people descending the stairs. The other candidates know that it will be up to them to grind stone, looking for imaginative ideas to lure people to signature collection points. The new headquarters have become more of a recording studio for making talks, live videos or answering calls. A way to bring headquarters to life, a phenomenon that was born in the 90s but has weight for the first time in the 2003 elections. Venues where teams meet, plan operations and get little sleep. Its sometimes with more volunteers than partners, because there is no shortage of volunteers. Barça, sad at the economic and sporting level, continues to beat socially.

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