Spain’s public prosecutor will proceed with its case against Barcelona for corruption, it has been reported today.
According to Spanish media outlet El Pais, the public prosecutor will file a suit against the Catalan club club and their former president Josep Maria Bartomeu for allegedly making payments to ex referees’ chief Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira.
It is claimed Barcelona paid Negreira £1.2m during a two-year period between 2016 and 2018 for ‘technical advice on referees’, while he was working as vice-president of the Spanish football Referees’ Committee. It is prohibited for any member of the committee to be employed by a consultant of a club.
El Mundo have also reported that the payments from Barcelona to Negreira’s company date back to all the way back to 2001, worth a total of €6.6m.
It was previously thought by some – and stated by outspoken La Liga chief Javier Tebas – the Spanish league couldn’t take any action against Barcelona because the statute of limitations had passed.
Barca president Joan Laporta was asked about the issue on Tuesday and said: “Barca has never bought referees and Barca has never had any intention of buying referees.
“Absolutely never. The forcefulness of the facts contradicts those who try to change the story.”
Laporta then revealed he will hold a press conference in the next few days to explain the situation in full.
Raphinha scored for Barcelona but then lost his cool when being substitutedThe news comes with Barcelona enjoying success on the pitch under Xavi this season, currently top of La Liga and favourites to regain the title, despite their Europa League exit to Manchester United.
The club have endured financial strife in recent years and could still fall foul of Financial Fair Play rules after signing the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and five other players in the summer, while keeping hold of prize asset Frenkie de Jong despite being in significant debt.