Barcelona Face Corruption Charges over Payments to Former Referees’ Official

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A Barcelona court heard that Barca, former club officials and Negreira had been indicted for “corruption”, “breach of trust”, and “false business records”.

Spanish prosecutors have filed corruption charges against Barcelona over payments the club made to Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, a former vice-president of Spain’s referees’ committee who worked under the Spanish football association between 1993 and 2018.

Barcelona public prosecutor’s office investigating the case revealed Friday that Negreira and his company Dasnil 95 received a reported total of 8.4m euros (£7.4m) in payments between 2001 and 2018 to influence match results.

A Barcelona court heard that Barca, former club officials, and Negreira had been indicted for “corruption”, “breach of trust”, and “false business records”. These lawsuits target the club, as well as former presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell.

Prosecutors claim that under a secret agreement and in exchange for payments, Negreira favoured Barcelona in both decisions taken by referees in games played by the club as well as in competition results. If this is proven to be true, it could have a wide-sweeping impact across the club and beyond.

“FC Barcelona reached and maintained a strictly confidential verbal agreement with Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira so that, in his capacity as vice-president of the CTA (Spanish football’s referee’s committee) and in exchange for money, the latter carries out actions tending to benefit FC Barcelona in decisions by the referees,” the public prosecutor’s office said.

La Liga chief executive Javier Tebas said last month that current club president Joan Laporta should resign if he was unable to explain the payments. Laporta had responded by saying he will not give Tebas “what he’d like by stepping down”.

Barcelona claims that the payments were for an external consultant while denying any wrongdoing, and Laporta said Tuesday that “Barcelona has not bought off referees and it has never been the intention.”

“That in the past Barcelona contracted the services of an external technical consultant, who provided, in video form, technical reports referring to players from the youth categories of the Spanish state for the club’s technical secretary,” Barcelona said in an official statement when information about the payments surfaced to the public in February.

“Additionally, the relationship with this external provider expanded to technical reports related to professional refereeing, with a view to complementing the information required by the first-team and academy coaching staff, a usual practice in professional football clubs.”