Barca election must be held despite restrictions, says Laporta

·2-min read
A giant electoral poster of FC Barcelona presidential hopeful Joan Laporta is seen on a building next to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona's leading presidential candidate Joan Laporta has said the club's Jan. 24 election should go ahead as planned, despite the prospect of novel coronavirus restrictions in the region of Catalonia being extended.

Catalan authorities will decide later this week whether to extend current restrictions, which prevent people leaving their municipality except for work, education or medical reasons, beyond Jan. 17.

Doing so would jeopardise the election, as email and online voting is not permitted.

Laporta, who collected 10,257 signatures for his candidacy, far outnumbering the three other candidates Victor Font, Toni Freixa and Emili Rousaud, suggested the restrictions should contain an exemption for club members so they can vote.

"If you can make exceptions to go to work, you can make them to vote," Laporta told reporters outside Camp Nou on Tuesday.

Barca have been run by a management committee with minimal powers since Josep Maria Bartomeu resigned as president in October to avoid a vote of no confidence.

Laporta said the election should be held to ensure the club can sign players before the January transfer window shuts and fix its dire financial problems, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Barca cannot wait any longer, we are missing out on golden opportunities. We have to do everything possible for the elections to take place," he added.

Font, the candidate with the most signatures after Laporta with 4,713, has long campaigned for the club to allow members to vote online and said the election should only be held if all members are able to participate.

"The figures from the pandemic are very serious, and if the club does not come up with a solution then the election cannot take place," he said.

"There are many members who are scared and don't want to leave their houses."

(Reporting by Richard Martin, additional reporting by Joan Faus; Editing by Ken Ferris)