Barcelona have implemented a new scheme where all future contracts for players and coaches will see a sum donated to helping ex-stars – the first of its kind in Europe. In an initiative aiming to involve the team’s stars more off the pitch, 1 per cent of their wages will be split equally between Agrupació Barça Jugadors (FC Barcelona Players Association) and the FC Barcelona Foundation.
Despite their reputation for looking forward with its world-renowned youth system, the club has shown they have not forgotten about their past glories. Having recently signed new contracts, the likes of Pep Guardiola, Sergio Busquets and Bojan will already be contributing through this new enterprise.
The club itself has been donating to the players association for the past six years, but there was a desire to integrate the relationship between the former servants of the club and those plying their today further. “The new FC Barcelona Board of Directors wanted to make a new step and included this condition to the new contracts and renewals,” said Oriol Garangou, a spokesperson for the association. “We are very proud of FC Barcelona being the first football club in Europe helping its former players through its current players.”
Fifty years of support
The players' association has been helping ex-Barcelona patrons since 1959, funding its first operation in 1983, while also aiming to provide support for careers and needs in other walks of life away from football. From 1995 they increased this effort through a new fund raising arm – the Fundació Barça Veterans (FC Barcelona Former Players Foundation) – and charity events to provide their budgets for financial aid before the club itself got involved.
They have also been pivotal in trying to promote support well beyond their own doorstep, not only leading the cause in Spain but also being one of the founding members of European Former Players' Association. Combining with the likes of the similarly pioneering Everton Former Players Foundation in England, the Agrupació has helped to forge a continental consensus towards providing support for their former athletes.
Along with another ten organisations, an initial fundraising game pitting together teams of European and Dutch veterans marked the inception of the group. Agrupació Barça Jugadors were then graced with a similar match of world class stars to mark their 50th anniversary in 2009.
As well as now expanding to include 18 member foundations, the list of affiliated players supporting their cause reads like a who’s-who of former European greats. In addition to boasting seven Barcelona past-masters, the likes of FIFA World Cup™ winners Lothar Matthaus and Christian Karembeu, double UEFA Champions League winners Paolo Sousa and Steve McManaman, and national icons Emilio Butragueno and Davor Suker all rub shoulders.
Besides raising awareness and funds for the well-being of former colleagues, the EFPA is also intent on promoting fair play and social integration, an area the Barcelona faction have prioritised more and more in recent years.
Socially spreading passion
In conjunction with the club, the players association have been looking to widen their impact beyond solely the welfare of ex-players in recent years. “Our main objective is to continue working on new projects related to improving the quality of life of former players,” Garangou said. “Further, we want to service our society because we receive a lot from it when we were active players.
“One way of doing this is promoting sport values, such as fair play, team building and tolerance. One project that combines both, improving quality of life of former players and helping society, is an education program for former players, giving them the tools to transmit these values, their experience and know-how to the youngsters.”
To ensure that their impact was more wide-ranging, when the board increased their interactions with Agrupació in 2004, the club entrusted them with a broader role beyond that of purely player welfare. “The directors added three new elements to our mission,” said Garangou.
“We are to be the touchstone at FC Barcelona in terms of restoring its history, keeping it alive, using football and sporting values to contribute to improve our society. We will return to society all the recognition that our members received as professional footballers through promoting the educational and social values of football. And thirdly, we will spread the passion for FC Barcelona wherever we go.”