Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Unopposed, yet ineffective?

What a difference a year (and two league titles - in football and basketball) makes. All through last summer, after the disputed election result, and even into the AGM in December, Ramón Calderón's authority, and even his legitimacy as president of Real Madrid was constantly called into question.

On Sunday, Real Madrid held their AGM and approved, by an overwhelming majority, the accounts for last year, which showed the club had a healthy balance sheet, although also a significant amount of debt (not necessarily a major issue in an entity of this size). However, only 654 out of the 2,106 socios compromisarios made an appearance for the initial speeches by the president and the board, and a mere 353 remained for the voting. By the time questions from the floor were allowed, only about 100 socios remained, a worrying level of interest (or perhaps overcomplacency) in how the club is run.

I've written before about the voting process at AGMs and how I feel that it is an undemocratic way of doing things, and one which has little transparency. In most democratic institutions, the lack of participation would be seen as a source of concern, because it directly affects the validity of the mandate the leadership has over that institution. This sort of thing promotes cronyism and corruption and should be reformed as a matter of priority, but, of course, it's not going to happen unless the members attend in numbers and demand it.

A number of announcements were made regarding the building of a new High Performance Centre to be managed by the club physio Walter di Salvo, a new residence for the players to spend time together before matches, and a new arena for the basketball team. However, nothing was said about any upgrades to the Santiago Bernabéu to make it one of the best stadia in the world, something the "richest club in the world" should aim for. Contrast this with Barcelona announcing that they have engaged one of the most prestigious architects in the world, Sir Norman Foster, to do with the Nou Camp what he did for Wembley stadium.

My personal bugbear with this AGM was the inability of the management to reform the statutes of the club to ensure the postal voting debacle at the last presidential election does not happen again. After all this time, they are still working on them and they did not furnish a date when they would be presented to the members for approval. The club has entered the 21st century as a business that makes rather than loses money, but the same cannot be said for the transparency and fairness of its processes.

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