Barcelona finds itself in a precarious situation as a Spanish judge, Joaquin Aguirre, has brought forth charges of suspected bribery against the club.
If proven guilty, Barcelona could face expulsion from the prestigious Champions League.
The allegations revolve around payments made by Barcelona to Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, the former vice-president of the Technical Committee of Referees (CTA), spanning a lengthy 17-year period from 2001 to 2018.
The sums involved total €7.5 million (€7.9 million) and were channeled through companies associated with Negreira, even during the tenure of the current club president, Joan Laporta.
Both Barcelona and Laporta vehemently deny any wrongdoing in this matter.
Barcelona have been officially charged with “active bribery” in the Negreira case. pic.twitter.com/MfSjuB7E2Z— Morale👻 (@M_orale_) September 28, 2023
In a statement made in February, Barcelona stated that they had remunerated an external consultant who supplied them with “technical reports related to professional refereeing,” asserting that such practices were commonplace in professional football clubs.
During a press conference earlier this year, Laporta denounced the case as a “massive campaign to tarnish our reputation.”
He claimed that it involved “defamatory insinuations” and alleged that some parties sought to “undermine a cherished symbol of Catalonia like FC Barcelona.” Laporta remained confident that Barcelona would emerge unscathed from this ordeal.
Laporta had previously asserted that the payments were exclusively for “technical reports on refereeing” and nothing more.
Furthermore, in addition to Barcelona, El Debate reports that former Barcelona presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell, along with Negreira and his son, Javier Enriquez Romero, are also facing charges in this case.
The Barcelona provincial prosecutor’s office charged Barcelona with “continued corruption between individuals in the sports field” back in March.
In a statement, prosecutors accused Rosell and Bartomeu of entering into a “strictly confidential verbal agreement” with Negreira to influence referee decisions in Barcelona’s matches, thereby impacting the outcomes of competitions.
UEFA conducted its own investigation into the matter after the initial charges in March, as reported by Forbes. Key findings from this investigation were outlined by Spanish outlet Marca.
In July, UEFA announced that Barcelona had been “provisionally admitted to participate in the 2023/24 UEFA club competitions.” However, they also noted that “a future decision on admission/exclusion from UEFA club competitions is reserved.”
This confirmation indicates that if Barcelona is ultimately found guilty of bribery, UEFA may reconsider their decision to permit the club’s participation in its competitions, including the Champions League, going forward.