The “La masia 360” strategy
In 16/17, Bartomeu launched a new Masia 360 strategy to professionalize the academy. Putting more money aside to make coaches and staff stay, add psychological help, advance academy studies etc. Sounded great, but an idea is nothing without right people to execute it.
Bartomeu picked his trusted director Albert Soler for the task of organizing this project. Soler first considered to appoint former Barça B player Pere Gratacós, but picked Carles Folguera with more practical academy experience… but watch out for the hungry Pep Segura.
The Pep Segura way
Pep Segura, professional (U19s and B) Masia director at the time, was not happy with this decision. He wanted Gratacos, a friend of his, to be appointed, in his attempts to have absolute power of the academy.. So already to begin with there were internal clashes of interests.
The second confrontation between the sports directive and Segura took place after the inauguration: Sergio Vallecillo was appointed director of Masia residence (74 kids live there). He was pushed for the job because he sponsor’s board member Vilanova’s private company.
Masia 360 launched an excellent comprehensive care program for the Masia led by psychological Ana Merayo. We speak of four areas of support for all the players in the base of the five professional sections: tutorial attention, psychology, emotional education and the academic.
FCB commissioned the company Eduvic, a social initiative cooperative with more than 20 years of experience, to make sure the project went well. Right now there are seventeen tutors – with a ratio of one for every 15 resident players, and one for every 35-40 non-residents.
The plan does not work
The program, however, has not worked. Segura has found out that players are already too busy to devote some of their time to specialists in non-football fields. Certain bureaucratization of the practices has been criticized and in the weekends the only focus is football.
Although the caring program is still valid, the degree of confidence between the parties has been broken. The tutors, do not think the tutoring is necessary. The Cadet (14-15yos) just answer what the tutors want to hear and get on with it.
What sense does a practice have if the process is like this? In this regard, Pep Segura believes that this tutoring part should not be his responsibility in the football area but should be the responsibility of ASSISTANT coaches of every single team. Pedagogical experts disagree.
What works for other sections does not suit football
It is important to note that the basketball, handball, futsal and hockey sections are more satisfied in this area than the football one because of fewer athletes/tutor. In any case, Eduvic has costed FCB €900.000 this season.
At the psychological level, there are two types of care: the one given by two professional tutors mentioned above field and that given by two sports psychologists. Once again, there’s a conflict, because according to La Masia officials 40-50 cases (serious illnesses of family members, separation of parents, economic problems etc) happen every year, but the sporting direction are confident of the work of the above mentioned tutors themselves, not the psychiatrists.
FCB hired the company La Granja, shared expenses with the FCB Foundarion (€50k+€50k/yr) to develop this program that has been a failure. The football section did not complete the first season and the rest of the sections have now also abandoned it.
The academic program
Fourthly, there’s the academic program, which the club uses to convince parents to make their kids sign for them instead of rivals. They say they make sport compatible with education, but some kids have been suspended from school with no sporting consequences.
In Masia 360, there are also additional educational programs for current and former players to educate them in the world of sports for them to work in. For former players nothing has been done yet. For current players, there’s a program that the club are proud of.
90 current athletes are in this program: 10 online courses on sports marketing, public speaking, social network managing, basic finance and entrepreneurship, and an offer to have their own summer camp for kids. It’s difficult to complete but Riqui is one of those who has done it.
The La Masia residence
The residence took a big step forward with the inauguration of the new residence in 2011 (weirdly enough there’s no picture or information inside about Oriol Tort, whom the residency is named after).
It’s a a five-story building to accommodate 83 athletes and provide the space and service for first team members of the five sports sections. The point of it was add comfort and stop accommodating kids in hotels. The reality, however, is quite different.
Dispatches with shower replaced the rooms on the 5th floor. When Segura started his GM job on July 2017, he organized the space of offices of the Ciutat Esportiva for the football section only. Therefore, other employees of all other sections were moved to La Masia.
Moreover, they needed offices for tutors, psychologists and for the one in charge of the comprehensive care service, Ana Merayo. There’s no longer a gym and the swimming tracks do no longer work. This has resulted in hotel accommodations once again for many kids.. Avoidable expenses.
The additions in club staff comes at the expense of the kids. On the ground floor, for example, an audiovisual room where the kids spent their free time by watching football and played video games together has, among other similar rooms, turned into offices.
The kuds in La Masia
It gets even crazier… it might seem like a lie, but out of the 48 football players who live in La Masia right now, most of them are loanees and reserves, not the highly wanted talents who leave their families from far away, as they still have to live in hotels.
And you wanna know how many girls who live in the La Masia residence??? ZERO.
The nutrition aspect
As if things weren’t bad enough already, Sodexo who are in charge of the food at La Masia does not meet lowest nutrition standards required! At an athletic institution! They also make food for the first team with no complaints, but La Masia? Budget costs. Unacceptable.
After moving the La Masia residency from the old farmhouse to CE, the club outsourced the caterings. And it’s not just the kids who eat bad food at La Masia, it’s also the 18+ players at Barça B and other players who haven’t turned completely pro yet who are allowed to eat there.
So, there are teens living under extremely competitive settings, but this season a player threatened another in the middle of the dining room. The club justified it with it being “acts of children”. Yrs ago a Brazilian boy threatened one with a knife and was expelled. Now, no.
The additional targets og Masia 360
Finally, the Masia 360 project has three more goals: educate coaches, produce new players who know the history of the club and work the values… BUT Albert Soler was himself in charge of sacking a Masia coach and making others without experience responsible of of academy areas.
The education of trainers was commissioned to Gratacós, former footballer, and Marc Carmona, former futsal player. During 2.5yrs, training courses in the prevention of risk situations and some data analysis, NONE with relation to club methodology, or as some call it, “Barça DNA”.
In other words: the coaches brought in, who are supposed to carry the Barça way, Barça DNA, Cruyff’s philosophy, whatever you wanna call it, DO NOT LEARN these things. This is how you slowly destroy a club and its philosophy from within.
Hockey player Ricard Muñoz and former @FCBfemeni coach Xavi Llorens were the chosen ones for the “FCB identity” program. The work has been reduced to just guiding new players and their families around in the club museum upon arrival. This is the Barça DNA of @jmbartomeu.
Thank you @xavitorresll for shedding light on this issue. Important work.