BARCELONA

Barcelona: Report links club with Facebook accounts aimed at damaging players' images

Cadena SER has released a report that apparently proves that company I3 Ventures was behind the accounts, something Barcelona had strenuously denied on Monday.

Barcelona: Report links club with Facebook accounts aimed at damaging players' images
Laurence Griffiths Getty Images

On Monday, Spanish radio network Cadena SER released an explosive report that claimed Barcelona hired a company to create social media accounts aimed at improving the reputation of club president Josep Bartomeu and the board; while at the same time damaging the image of players such as Gerard Piqué, Lionel Messi and other figures associated with the club, including Víctor Font, Pep Guardiola and Xavi.

Hours after the report came to light, Barcelona and the company in question, I3 Ventures, moved to deny the claims. In a statement released to the media, the Catalan club also denied that I3 Ventures had any link with the social media accounts in question.

However, El Larguero, a radio programme on the Cadena SER network, has released a document that apparently proves that I3 Ventures was behind the unofficial accounts that spread information in an attempt to form a negative image of current and former players, ex-coaches and ex-presidents. Simultaneously, other information was shared through the accounts to cast a positive light on Bartomeu and the club’s directorate.

The Barcelona board have "roundly" denied the claims.

The fake Barcelona-linked accounts

According to Cadena SER, the six Facebook accounts that were managed by I3 Ventures were the following: Més que un club (66,000 followers), Respeto y Deporte (56,000), Alter Sports (27,000), Sport Leaks (21,000), Justicia y Diálogo en el Deporte (8,500) y Jaume, un film de terror (5,000).

The 36-page dossier made public by El Larguero was created by Nicestream, which is owned by the head of I3 Ventures. The document (which is in Spanish and can be viewed below) was sent to Barça periodically and includes information and data that refer to these accounts and their impact on social networks. This data would only be accessible to the administrator of these accounts.

Barcelona have recognised dossier – claims SER

More evidence put forward by Cadena SER surrounds Respect and Sport, one of the aforementioned Facebook accounts that is associated with a website owned by I3 Ventures. On that website, messages can be seen that appear the same on the Facebook page. According to El Larguero, the dossier has been recognised by the club itself.