FC Barcelona face corruption charges over former referee payments

Barcelona, Spain, Mar 10 (EFE).- FC Barcelona were charged on Friday with corruption relating to payments the LaLiga club made to former referee José María Enríquez Negreira.

A court said FC Barcelona, club officials including former presidents Jose Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell, and Negreira – also a former vice-president of the Technical Committee of Referees (CTA) – had been charged with crimes of corruption, breach of trust and false documentation.

Reports in Spain emerged in February that the club had paid Negreira’s consultancy company over 7.3 million euros between 2001 and 2018.

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.

The prosecution argues that, through presidents Rosell and Bartomeu, the club “reached and maintained” a “strictly confidential verbal agreement” with Negreira so that, “in exchange for money”, he would “favor FC Barcelona in the decision making of the referees in the matches it played” and in the “results of the competitions”.

The Prosecutor’s Office underlines that the CTA was in charge of appointing the referees for all matches in official Spanish competitions and that the accused also evaluated the promotion and demotion of referees.

In the complaint, prosecutors say that Negreira was relieved as vice president of the CTA in May 2018, the same month that “FC Barcelona put an end to all payments”.

In February 2019, Negreira sent a burofax to the club presidency condemning the termination of the relationship, demanding that a “fair” solution be reached for both parties and warning of the consequences of not doing so, according to prosecutors.

“I have no desire to publicize all the irregularities that I have known and experienced firsthand in relation to anyone in the club, but you will force me to do so if you do not reconsider your decision and comply with the agreement we had to continue to have my services until the end of the presidential term”, Negreira allegedly said in his letter.

At a press conference last month, current Barcelona president Joan Laporta railed against LaLiga president Javier Tebas, who has called for Laporta to resign over the scandal.

He also implied that Tebas was using the payments scandal to retaliate against the club for its continued support of the Super League project, a proposed tournament that would rival the UEFA Champions League that was shelved in 2021 after an intense fan backlash.

Laporta warned that “whoever tries to damage the image of FC Barcelona and undermine its history will receive a strong response” from the club.This week, he insisted at a press conference that the club “has never bought referees nor has it had any intention of doing so.” EFE


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