Barcelona are facing corruption charges after making payments to the ex-vice-president of Spanish football’s refereeing committee.
Former presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell are also facing charges, alongside Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, who held the role of vice president between 1994 and 2018.
A Barcelona court heard on Friday that Barcelona had been indicted for “corruption”, “breach of trust” and “false business records”.
Enriquez Negreira has denied ever favouring Barcelona in terms of reffing decisions, but the crime is alleged to have taken place over a “sustained period”, rather than on just one occasion.
The public prosecutor’s office said: “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.”
Last month, radio station Ser Catalunya revealed details of the payments, after an investigation by tax authorities into Negreira’s company Dasnil 95.
The club allegedly paid Negreira around €7 million (£6.2m) between 2001 and 2018 – the same year he left his role with the referees’ committee.
They also made payments to Dasnil 95 totalling a reported €1.4m.
However, though Barcelona have acknowledged that payments were made to Dasnil 95, they have stressed this was for an “external technical consultant” to compile video reports related to professional referees “with the aim of complementing the information required by the coaching staff”.
La Liga chief executive Javier Tebas has called for current president Joan Laporta to resign if he cannot explain these payments, but the Spaniard responded by saying: “Let it be clear Barca have never bought referees and Barca have never had the intention of buying referees, absolutely never.”
The news comes with Xavi’s Barcelona team sitting top of La Liga at present.
Barca have a nine-point lead over Real Madrid at present with 14 league games left to go.
If they manage to hold off their rivals, it will be the club’s first league title since 2019 and Xavi’s first as a manager.
But given the accusations made against Barcelona, any silverware won right now will be marred by controversy – especially if sanctions are imposed on the club.