Josep Maria Barnils: "The Confederation has played a key role in the internationalisation of the supporters’ clubs movement"

INTERVIEWS 23 Sep 2019 - Supporters' Clubs World Confederation

We interviewed Josep Maria Barnils, lawyer and Chief Executive of the Social Commission of the FC Barcelona

Josep Maria Barnils may be a lawyer by name, but he’s most certainly a culer by nature. In fact, it could even be said that FC Barcelona is part of his DNA. Born in Barcelona in 1964, he was raised amidst the blaugrana passion and values thanks to his father, Carles Barnils, one of the Club’s most prominent figures. Josep Maria Barnils has instilled this legacy into Barça fans from all over the world, and has done so with the help of the supporters’ clubs, a movement he has been in charge of overseeing, improving and internationalising since 2010. Thanks to him, today there are thousands of culers around the world whose hearts belong to Barça, and he’s certain that they’ll only get bigger and better.

Your history with Barça goes back a long way. How did you use to experience the blaugrana spirit at home?

Indeed, I’ve been surrounded by Barça my whole life. In fact, I’ve been a member since the day I was born, some 55 years ago. I started going regularly to the Stadium when I was 7, and still continue to do so today. What’s more, my father, Carles Barnils, was the editor of Barça magazine, founder of the magazine Barcelonista and patron of the Barça Foundation, from its beginning right up until his death in 2012.

You became an executive of the Club in 2010, when you were made head of the International Supporters’ Club Area, and you’re currently Chief Executive of the Social Commission. What have been your duties so far?

Over recent years I’ve mainly been in charge of our supporters’ clubs overseas. I think the main goal has been to show them they’re still an essential part of the Club despite being a long way from Barcelona. There may be many miles between us, but we’re never very far away in spirit. It’s vital that they know they’re held in high regard and aware of the important role they play, and this is why we want to listen to them and look after them. Once we’ve achieved this, it will be easier for these supporters’ clubs to get more involved, and become better ambassadors for the Club in each territory.

You’ve had the opportunity to visit supporters’ clubs all over the world. What traits would you say they all have in common, and what differentiates the supporters’ clubs here from those in the rest of the world?

What they all share, obviously, is the Barça sentiment; a love for the colours and the defence of our values in each territory. On the other hand, I’d say that the structure has changed. The first international supporters’ clubs were founded with the help of Catalan people who’d moved to these countries for family or professional reasons. Nowadays, it’s the local people themselves who establish them. Maybe another difference is that the supporters’ club members abroad are generally young, something which means they’ve grown up watching the Club’s victories over the past few decades. They’re very enthusiastic, they travel a lot (this can be seen during the Champions League), and they’re very optimistic; it never occurs to them to throw away their membership card after a defeat, as the Catalans have been known to do on certain occasion.

What role do you believe the Supporters’ Clubs World Confederation has played since its creation?

One that is very important. It was an essential and significant step towards improving the supporters’ clubs movement. If we take a look at the international side of things, the Confederation has played a key role in the huge development of the movement, which now boasts over 130 supporters’ clubs overseas. It has also been fundamental in always supporting the initiatives (events, zone meetings etc.) organised by the board of the World Federation. I’d also like to point out the support that Jordi Cardoner and Pau Vilanova have given to this international growth.

How essential are the supporters’ clubs when it comes to supporting the teams?

They’re fundamental. When a team plays away, be it for La Liga or the Champions League, the supporters’ club members are always at hand to lend their support. But I’d say that what stands out above all is how they support all the FC Barcelona teams (whether it be football, the other professional sections or youth football) that visit each territory. In terms of support, I’d give the supporters’ clubs 10/10.

What do you think the supporters’ club movement will look like in ten years’ time? Will it have grown?

I see a movement that is increasingly more structured, and which will have grown in both quality and quantity. It’s also likely to be rejuvenated, very socially active and it will play an important role in the community of each territory.