La Liga giants FC Barcelona has been embroiled in a corruption scandal as they are accused of paying a former referee chief £1.4 million from 2016-2018. The payments were made to Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira who was the then vice president of the Technical Committee of Referees in Spain.
On February 15 Spanish media outlet Cadena Ser released an article regarding the payments which has since become viral.
The payments were reported to have occurred during former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu’s reign, who has a history of scandals and wrongdoings while in charge of the club. The payments were made to DASNIL 95 SL 33 times over the years of 2016-18 amounting to £1.4 million. DASNIL 95 SL happens to belong to Negreira.
Negreira, when testifying in the Prosecutor’s Office denied any wrongdoing and said that Barcelona never received any preferential treatment from referees on the pitch.
🚨 Barcelona allegedly paid the former vice-president of the Referees Commission, José Maria Enriquez, €1.4 million between 2016 and 2018. 🥶💰
— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) February 15, 2023
Negreira claimed that the payments were apparently made for scouting information regarding players in the lower playing divisions of Spain and for technical reports on professional referees for information on how to deal with each individual referee. Josep Bartomeu also confirmed the same thing and said this was a common thing among Spanish clubs. However, both couldn’t provide any evidence to back these claims.
Spain’s Referee Technical Committee said in a statement, “The CTA wishes to make clear that Mr. Enriquez Negreira is not part of any federal body since the change in government that occurred after the 2018 elections”
“The CTA is available to justice authorities to offer its maximum cooperation for any type of information that this Committee can provide.”
Barcelona has denied any wrongdoing though they admit the payments were made for the referee reports, scouting information, and nothing else.
Current President of the club Joan Laporta quickly spoke against the allegations, “FC Barcelona in the past had contracted the services of an external consultant to obtain reports from players in the lower categories of Spanish football, and refereeing advice, which is a service that other Spanish clubs hire out too. It is very normal for clubs to do so. Really, the news is surprising, and it is no coincidence that it comes out now.”
He also threatened legal action against those that try to harm the club’s reputation, “And what I can say is that from Futbol Club Barcelona, any captious, tendentious interpretation that insinuates things that are not, will receive the proportional and adequate response from the club and therefore we reserve all the actions that are necessary to defend the honor of the club. I say this to the clues [Barcelona fans]. It is no coincidence that this information is now coming out at this time when Barca is doing well. It is no coincidence.”
Joan Laporta has defended Barcelona after payments to a former referee were leaked:
"It's very normal for clubs."
"It's no coincidence this news comes out now. Any interpretation that insinuates things that are not, will receive the adequate response."pic.twitter.com/8GvrWfq0Fr
— Football España (@footballespana_) February 15, 2023
Currently, an investigation is going on against Negreira’s company which received the payments but not Barcelona itself yet. If the investigation finds that Barcelona was getting favor from referees as a result of the payments, the club could face heavy punishments. The club could face a points deduction or worse relegation from top-flight football.