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Friday, April 12, 2024

Barcelona faces corruption charges over payments to former referee

Barcelona is facing charges of corruption over payments the club made to Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, a former vice president of Spain’s referees’ committee. The payments, totalling 8.4 million euros (£7.4m) between 2001 and 2018, were made to Negreira and a company he owns, Dasnil 95. The Barcelona court heard that the club, former officials, and Negreira had been indicted for “corruption”, “breach of trust,” and “false business records”. These charges were brought by the Barcelona public prosecutor’s office and targeted the club, as well as former presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell.

The public prosecutor’s office stated that “FC Barcelona obtained and maintained a strictly confidential verbal agreement with Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira so that, in his capacity as vice-president of the technical arbitral committee (CTA) and in exchange for money, the latter carries out actions tending to benefit FC Barcelona in decisions by the referees.” La Liga chief executive Javier Tebas had previously called on current president Joan Laporta to resign if he was unable to explain the payments. Laporta responded by stating that he would not give Tebas “what he’d like by stepping down”.

The payments came to light following an investigation by tax authorities into Negreira’s company Dasnil 95. Barcelona had acknowledged paying Dasnil 95, which it described as “an external technical consultant” to compile video reports related to professional referees “with the aim of complementing the information required by the coaching staff”.

The club also stated that contracting such reports was “a habitual practice among professional clubs”. The situation prompted 18 of the 20 La Liga clubs to issue a statement expressing “deep concern”, and Laporta said the club would launch an internal investigation into the payments. Barcelona coach Xavi, who won eight La Liga titles with the club as a player, stated that he had no knowledge of the payments and never had the feeling his team had any advantage.

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