- Associated Press - Saturday, July 18, 2015

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Josep Bartomeu was re-elected president of Spanish football club Barcelona on Saturday, capitalizing on the team’s success last season to defeat three challengers despite being a suspect in a fraud case and a FIFA ban on signing new players.

Barcelona last season achieved a rare treble of the Champions League, Spanish league, and Copa del Rey trophies in coach Luis Enrique’s first spell in charge.

Barcelona said Bartomeu received 54.63 percent of the votes cast by club members. His closest rival was former president Joan Laporta. Backed by club greats Pep Guardiola and Johan Cruyff, he collected 33.03 percent of the vote.

The 52-year-old Bartomeu became club president in January 2014 when his predecessor Sandro Rosell resigned after being named in a magistrate’s investigation into alleged misappropriation of funds to sign Brazil striker Neymar. Bartomeu himself was later included in the ongoing investigation.

Bartomeu scheduled Saturday’s early election in January, following a chaotic week at the club that included the firing of its sports director.

Also, FIFA imposed a one-year ban on Barcelona signing new players, through 2015, after concluding it violated rules regulating the transfer of underage players at its La Masia academy.

Bartomeu, a businessman with companies involved in airport and seaport facilities, will serve a six-year term.

He first joined Barcelona’s board under Laporta from 2003-05 as executive head of its basketball and handball teams. He returned to the club under Rosell, taking over the supervision of its football team and overseeing the signing of players like Neymar.

The other two candidates, Agusti Benedito and Toni Freixa, received 7.17 percent and 3.70 percent of the votes, respectively. Other ballot papers were blank or spoiled.

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