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Conspiracy or Corruption? The Negreira affair threatens Barça and tears Spanish football apart

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It is “the biggest scandal in the history of Spanish football”proclaims the Madrid sports press. “A disproportionate and cruel campaign of harassment” and an “attack on the honor of the club” conducted by “the enemies of Barça”, retort the Catalan media. In Spain, the Negreira affair – named after the former number two of the Spanish referees to whom the Catalan club paid 7.3 million euros between 2001 and 2018 – shook FC Barcelona and scandalized many football aficionados, who replay their clubs’ big matches in their heads, wondering if the refereeing that day was really honest.

The case broke on February 15, when journalists from Cadena Ser radio revealed that the Barcelona public prosecutor’s office had opened an investigation into the payments, in the amount of 1.4 million euros, made by the club between 2016 and 2018 to a company belonging to José Maria Enriquez Negreira, then vice-president of the Technical Arbitral Committee (CTA), a body responsible in particular for the appointment and assignment of arbitrators. The next day, the conservative daily El Mundo adds by revealing that in nineteen years, between 2001 and 2018, the total paid to Mr. Negreira amounted to 7.3 million euros. For the club, there is no reason to be indignant: it is a simple “external consultant”who provided them “technical reports” about players and refereeing.

Explanations that did not satisfy the Barcelona prosecutor’s office. On March 10, he indicted FC Barcelona – as a legal person – and several of its former leaders, for “corruption”, “unfair administration” and “false business records”. The tax authorities had been the first to alert, during an inspection of Mr. Negreira in the spring of 2022, and had transmitted his file to the prosecution. If the Public Treasury recalls that there is no ” no proof » that these payments “could have influenced the results” sporty, he considers that the agreement with Negreira “could cover illicit services “.

The risk of exclusion from continental competitions

Several elements particularly draw his attention, such as the fact that Mr. Negreira withdrew nearly 560,000 euros in cash over the period examined, between 2016 and 2018, or that despite the 7 million euros he received, his patrimony has not grown. Did he use this money to pay third parties or distribute favors? And if his job was only to provide reports on the refereeing, and therefore had nothing to do with the position he had at the CTA, why did Barça do without his services as soon as he left his post at CTA in 2018?

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