Thousands seek refunds after Barcelona soccer academy closure

Thousands seek in refunds after Barcelona soccer academy closure

In Australia, Hundreds of families in Sydney and Brisbane have been left upwards of $250,000 out of pocket after the abrupt closure of Spanish soccer club FC Barcelona's two private youth academies.

Parents had forked out for holiday-style travel packages to Spain after their children – some as young as seven – had been "invited" to play in the "Barca Academy World Cup" in April.

Barca Academy World Cup is an international tournament that every Easter bring together soccer schools from all around the planet on the FC Barcelona facilities but this year competition has been cancelled due to the worldwide effects caused by the spread of coronavirus COVID-19. The club has taken this decision to safeguard the health of the more than 2,100 boys and girls, families and staff members who were planning to come to Barcelona from different places around the world, and also to preserve the integrity, good organisation and competitive spirit that had suffered from the effects of this situation.

Families were told via email of the immediate closure of BCN Sports, the Canadian company licensed to run Barcelona's academies in Australia and New Zealand. About 400 children are believed to be involved in the Sydney and Brisbane academies.

The email said the company intended to file for voluntary insolvency, but anxious parents – already struggling due to the economic downturn – have been left scrambling for answers as to how and when they can get their money back.

Some are lodging disputes with their banks, a process which could take months, while websites and social media accounts for the academies have been taken down.

Speaking to one of the affected families Dax Anderson of Ipswich, near Brisbane who paid $14,980 to BCN for himself, his wife, daughter and two sons who play in the Barcelona academy – Xavier, 11, and Hudson, 9 – to travel to the tournament. He also spent an additional $6500 on booking his own flights but hopes to receive credit from the airline.

"I put a lot of faith in that academy," Mr Anderson said. "Their communication was never great, but given the amount of money that was invested in them towards December and the yearly fees, you've got to wonder where the money's disappeared to.

"When you list yourself at about $4 billion, you might want to pay off your debts."

Another affected person named Leonie Dyer said she is down to almost $8000 – her son Menzies, 7, only joined the academy in January and within weeks was offered a spot in the "World Cup" squad.

"I was blown away by the opportunity given he was so young and so new. Part of the package was a trip to see Lionel Messi play and that was the sealer for me," she said.

"I couldn't really afford it but I thought, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for him to play in Barcelona with his friends and see Lionel Messi. There's no way we're missing out on this.

"But I can't get answers from anyone, and I had the distinct feeling that nobody was interested in getting my money back."

FC Barcelona has been contacted for comment, while calls to BCN's operations manager in Australia and New Zealand, Peter Lee, have not been returned.

An email from BCN to parents, seen by the Herald and dated April 6, said the company had not been able to obtain a "definite answer" from FC Barcelona or its suppliers regarding refunds. Follow us on Google newsTwitter and on Facebook

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