Barcelona charged with corruption in referee affair

Prosecutors examining payments to former deputy head of refereeing committee

Spanish state prosecutors have formally accused Barcelona of corruption over payments to the vice president of the country's refereeing committee. AP
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Barcelona and two of the club’s former presidents are facing corruption charges over alleged payments to a former vice president of Spain’s referees’ committee.

Spanish prosecutors have filed a complaint after it was reported last month that between 2001 and 2018, Barcelona paid more than €7 million (£6.2 million) to companies owned by Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, who was vice president of the Spanish FA’s refereeing committee from 1993 to 2018.

In a statement carried by local media, the public prosecutor’s office said: “Through presidents [Sandro] Rosell and [Jose Maria] Bartomeu, Barcelona reached and maintained a strictly confidential verbal agreement with the defendant Negreira, so that, in his capacity as vice president of the refereeing committee and in exchange for money, he would carry out actions aimed at favouring Barcelona in the decision-making of the referees in the matches played by the club, and thus in the results of the competitions.”

The focus of the case is on payments made between 2014 and 2018.

Mr Rosell served as president from 2010 to 2014, with Mr Bartomeu replacing him and remaining in the post until 2020. Former club executives Oscar Grau and Albert Soler, were listed among the defendants in the case.

A judge must yet decide whether to take up the case.

Barcelona have not publicly commented on Friday’s development, but last month denied wrongdoing.

A statement said they had paid an external consultant for “technical reports related to professional refereeing”, arguing it was common practice in the game.

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

Updated: March 11, 2023, 12:16 AM