FC Barcelona accused of corruption over ref committee payments

Streaming HUBMarch 11, 2023

Prosecutors have formally charged Barcelona with corruption after millions of euros were paid to a company belonging to the vice president of Spain’s football refereeing committee over several years.

The decision, made official on Friday, was reported this week by Spanish newspaper El Pais. An investigating judge will decide whether the allegations should be turned into charges.

Barcelona, ​​which denies wrongdoing, has been under scrutiny since the club’s payments became public. The payments were initially probed as part of a tax probe into the company.

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Prosecutors in Barcelona have issued three charges involving alleged corruption and fraudulent management in the sport. Other charges relating to alleged falsification of business documents.

Spanish football has been shaken after it was revealed that Spanish tax authorities were probing a payment of 1.4 million euros ($1.5 million) to Barcelona from 2016-18 to a company belonging to Jose Maria Enriquez Negrera, a Was a former referee who was part of Spanish football. Federation Referee Committee from 1994 to 2018.

Prosecutors said in court documents seen by The Associated Press that payments by the club actually reached 7.3 million euros ($7.7 million) from 2001-18. He said that this “amount was not justified as it was not in the rules of the club nor approved by its general body (club members)”.

That scenario would mean Barcelona paid Enriquez Negira’s company during various club presidents, including from 2003-10 under the first term of current president Joan Laporta, who takes over again in 2021. However, Laporta is not being charged by prosecutors. denied any wrongdoing.

The charges are against the Barcelona club, Enriquez Negreira, former Barcelona presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, and former Barcelona executives Oscar Grau and Albert Soler.

FC Barcelona, ​​headed by Joan Laporta, has been accused of corruption by Spanish prosecutors.

FC Barcelona, ​​headed by Joan Laporta, has been accused of corruption by Spanish prosecutors. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort, File)

Prosecutors said there was enough evidence to believe that Rosell and Bartomeu, who ran Barcelona continuously from 2010-2020, “reached a confidential, verbal agreement” with Enriquez Negreira that “in exchange for money, such acts” to favor Barcelona Football Club in refereeing decisions in games played by Barcelona and in the results of competitions.

So far there is no evidence that the referee or the outcome of the game was actually affected.

The refereeing committee to which Enríquez Negrera belonged assigned referees to games, the division they served in, and selected people for international competitions.

Barcelona has consistently denied any wrongdoing or conflict of interest, saying it paid for technical reports on referees but never tried to influence their decisions in games.

It is common to receive reports on referees and clubs may pay other companies or prepare them in-house, as Barcelona now does. But it is not a common practice to pay large sums of money to a person in the race for a Spanish referee for a report.

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Bartomeu, who has denied any wrongdoing, told ABC newspaper last month: “It seems that with this serve we were asking for more penalties in our favor or we wanted to bet the referee’s decision. , But that’s not true. This guy (Enriquez Negira) had zero power over the referee.”

Several former and current referees, including their current president, have denied that they received any orders or pressure to favor Barcelona.

Enriquez Negreira told Cadena SER radio that he never supported Barcelona when appointing referees for matches, and that his job was only to verbally assist the club on how players should conduct themselves in front of each referee. .

The scandal threatened to tarnish Barcelona’s golden age when Lionel Messi and company dominated Spanish football. Prosecutors say that during the years that Barcelona paid Enriquez Negira, Barcelona won nine Spanish leagues and six Copas del Rey.

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Apart from an initial statement from the club and its president when the payments were first reported by Cadena SER last month, Barcelona remained silent on the scandal. The club has hired a law firm to conduct its own investigation into the payments, the results of which are expected to be made public.

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