FC Barcelona replaced EY with Grant Thornton after warnings

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Spanish soccer giant FC Barcelona reported strong earnings for its latest financial year, months after appointing Grant Thornton as its new auditor. The firm took over from EY, shortly after the Big Four auditor warned of “a hole” in the football club’s finances worth hundreds of millions of euros.

After a period of financial turbulence, FC Barcelona announced a profit of 98 million euros for its last financial year. Looking ahead, the club claim they will reach even greater heights as well, suggesting they could make a profit of €274m next year.

The news suggests a dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of the historic Catalan club. Earlier this summer, he was banned from registering new players due to La Liga financial regulations – as he suffered losses of €481m in the 2020-21 season.

In a remarkably timely fashion, however, the club found ‘economic levers’ which freed up funds to register Raphinha and Robert Lewandowksi in time for the new season.

The moves included selling shares of their future television rights and media production unit Barca Studios. In August, the club sold a further 25% of Barca Studios to Orpheus Media for €100m which should generate enough revenue to satisfy La Liga and allow Barca to secure their players’ registrations. The deal ultimately appeased La Liga, having been cleared by club auditor Grant Thornton.

The firm took on the role of Barca’s auditor from July 2022 and was installed after the club ended its relationship with Big Four firm EY.

Reports from Spanish newspaper El Confidencial suggest that at the end of the previous season, EY warned Barca of a ‘€451m legacy hole’. Months later, the club’s board determined that Grant Thornton would instead examine the club’s balance sheets and accounts – including the last-minute maneuver to avoid resounding losses.

Grant Thornton is one of the largest audit and consultancy firms outside of the Big Four of EY, KPMG, Deloitte and PwC. The firm has been one of the beneficiaries of the abandonment of the quartet in recent years, following the collapse of a number of clients following accounting discrepancies.

However, mid-sized companies such as Grant Thornton have also been involved in similar scandals. The professional services firm held the auditor contract for Patisserie Valérie for 12 years, before an ‘accounting black hole’ was discovered in late 2018. The firm recently reached a multi-million pound settlement for the matter resulting court case.

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