Barcelona faces referee payment scandal

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Barcelona faces corruption charges over payment of referee as UEFA and FIFA could take action.

La Liga team Barcelona and its former president Josep Maria Bartomeu are facing corruption charge over the unearthing of payments to the former vice president of the refereeing committee, judicial sources have confirmed to Spanish news agency EFE.

Former referee Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira had been the main focus of the investigation for payments worth €1.4 million received from Barca between 2016 and 2018.

However, Barcelona and Bartomeu will now also be probed as defendants in the case and could face legal action for the money paid to Negreira’s company, Dasnil 95 SL.

Former Barca presidents Joan Gaspart and Sandro Rosell, along with current president Joan Laporta — who also was in charge of the club from 2003 to 2010 — will also be summoned as witnesses.

They can no longer face charges, though, because of the statute of limitations for such crimes.

Laporta, who has previously said the payments were for “technical reports on referees and refereeing,” denied that Barca had ever bought match officials.

“Barca have never bought referees nor influence,” Laporta said Tuesday. “That was never the intention and that has to be clear. The facts contradict those that are trying to tell a different story.”

Barca paid Negreira around €7m in total between 2001 and 2018 — a period that spanned four presidents — before Bartomeu cut off the payments five years ago.

It is the payments made between 2016 and 2018 that sparked the investigation after they were flagged by the tax office.

LaLiga chief Javier Tebas said Barca cannot face any sporting sanctions in Spain because more than three years has passed, but he promised to revisit the case once the legal proceedings have reached a conclusion.

UEFA and FIFA could take action, though, and the Royal Spanish Football Federation revealed last week that UEFA had requested all information and documents related to the investigation to be sent to them.


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