Barca hit by corruption charge over ref payment
BARCELONA have been charged with corruption over payments made by the club to the then vice-president of the Spanish referees’ committee. Spain’s public prosecutor has accused the club of maintaining a relationship with Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira in which ‘in exchange for money’ he carried out actions that would ‘lead to Barcelona being favoured in the decision making of the referees’. The prosecution says €7.3million (£6.46m) was paid by the club to DASNIL and NILSAT, two companies owned by Negreira. The club could face huge financial penalties, and Negreira, former Barcelona presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Bartomeu, and former directors Oscar Grau and Albert Soler could face up to four years in jail. Courts will now decide whether there is sufficient evidence to prove that Negreira used money paid to him by Barcelona to influence matches in the club’s favour. Barcelona’s current president Joan Laporta was asked about the scandal earlier this week and said: ‘Barca has never bought referees and Barca has never had any intention of buying referees. Absolutely never. The forcefulness of the facts contradicts those who try to change the story.’
The controversy first hit Barcelona last month when an investigation into a firm owned by Negreira revealed a £1.2m payment from the club, during a two-year period until 2018 for ‘technical advice on referees’. Spanish newspaper El Mundo subsequently reported that payments from Barcelona to Negreira’s company date back to 2001, a period of time that includes Laporta’s first spell as club president. He will now have to give evidence to investigators. At the time Barcelona issued a statement admitting to having contracted the services of an ‘external’ consultant who provided reports ‘related to professional refereeing in order to complement information required by the coaching staff’, something that it said was ‘common practice in professional football clubs’. Later El Mundo revealed that when Barcelona stopped paying Enriquez Negreira, lawyers faxed them referencing a relationship that had ‘lasted so many years with so many favours rendered and so many confidences shared’.