Things appear to be going from bad to worse for Barcelona, after UEFA confirmed an investigation into payments made to referees by the Catalan giants.
It’s understood that Barcelona paid approximately £6.5million to a senior former referee over a 17 year period, and as Sky Sports note, if the club are found guilty, UEFA could even ban Xavi Hernandez’s side from the Champions League.
Jose Mara Enriquez Negreira was the former vice-president of Spanish football’s refereeing committee and payments were apparently received into his company, DASNIL 95.
The period concerned is believed to be from 2001 to 2018, which would implicate current president, Joan Laporta, during his first period in the presidency (2003-2010), as well as Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Laporta, to his credit, came out and explained that payments were indeed made but they were for technical services per FC Barcelona.com:
“These technical services on referees and players were paid with the corresponding invoice, and had the corresponding documentary and video supports… What happened afterwards is under investigation, and as soon as we have further information we will announce it. We are looking forward to presenting a full explanation.”
However, he had some strong words for La Liga chief, Javier Tebas, telling the official Barca website:
“Tebas has publicly stated his wish for me to stand down as president of Barça. This is no coincidence because we are doing well, and getting better and better, and Tebas seems to be repeatedly trying to destabilise us. I shall not give him the pleasure of doing what he wants because FC Barcelona belongs to its members. Tebas is a person whose anti-Barça views have been apparent throughout his career … Now he refuses to forgive us for not adhering to the agreement with CVC and because we are defending our stance for a Super League.
“Whoever tries to tarnish the history of FC Barcelona will be met by as strong a response as necessary. This club’s history has been built on much work and knowledge to create a spectacular kind of football.”
Sky Sports report that UEFA would “conduct an investigation regarding a potential violation of UEFA’s legal framework by FC Barcelona in connection with the so-called Caso Negreira.”
In a season where Barcelona are romping away with La Liga even if their European exploits haven’t been up to their usual high standards, the thought of being subject to more scrutiny and, perhaps, more financial penalties, is something that the club could do without.
Frankly, if Barca have nothing to hide, then this process can be allowed to play out until a decision is reached.
With no evidence that games were actually influenced, per Sky Sports, Barca can afford to sit pretty for now at least.