Barça president hits back in referee payments scandal

Barcelona, Spain, Apr 17 (EFE).- FC Barcelona has “never” tried to influence referees to gain a sporting advantage, president Joan Laporta said Monday.

“FC Barcelona has never carried out any action whose purpose or intention is to adulterate the competition in order to gain a sporting advantage,” Laporta told a press conference to present the results of an internal club inquiry into the matter.

Barcelona have been accused of corruption relating to payments the LaLiga club over 17 years made to former referee and vice president of Spain’s referee committee (CTA) José María Enríquez Negreira.

Barcelona made payments totaling 7.3 million euros to a firm belonging to Enríquez Negreira between 2001 and 2018 in a case that could amount to “continued sporting corruption,” breach of trust and false documentation, prosecutors say.

The club has acknowledged the payments, saying it had received technical reports on refereeing as part of the deal, which Barca insists was above board.

“Receiving technical and referring advice (…) does not constitute anything illicit and much less a criminal offense,” Laporta said Monday, adding that the prosecution had “failed to prove that the payments could have influenced the choice of referees or any sporting result (…) because it was not possible.”

The Barcelona president said the club would “defend its honor” against the accusations, which Laporta believes are part of an attempt to tarnish the club’s reputation and harm its standing with the team leading LaLiga despite struggling through a period of financial turbulence that has seen a host of former stars, including Lionel Messi, leave the club in recent years. EFE


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