Can Barça be deprived of European competitions? The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) announced on Thursday 23 March the opening of an investigation into a “possible violation of the legal framework” of the instance by FC Barcelona, in the context of the scandal involving the Catalan club around the arbitration. Already on the grill of justice and the Spanish league, the current leader of La Liga continues his fall.
According to the sports newspaper brandthe UEFA Ethics and Disciplinary Committee – which had already requested information from the Spanish Football Federation on the “Negreira affair” – considered that there were sufficient arguments to proceed with the initiation of this investigation, in accordance with Article 31 (4) of its rules.
“The Negreira affair”, named after the former senior official of Spanish arbitration, Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, has shaken the formation for more than a month, when in mid-February, two journalists from Cadena Ser radio report that the prosecution is investigating this “former vice-president of referees who received payments from Barça for advice during his tenure”.
According to the public prosecutor, 7.3 million euros were paid to him by the blaugrana club, over a period of seventeen years (from 2001 to 2018). Spotted during a tax audit, the former head of arbitration explained to the authorities that he was mandated by FC Barcelona to guarantee him a “arbitral neutrality”. What Lionel Messi’s former club confirmed, justifying in a press release having “has used the services of an external technical consultant in the past, who has provided technical reports referring to players in the lower categories in Spain” and also received “technical reports related to arbitration”.
The club threatened with being excluded from European competitions
Explanations that are struggling to convince the authorities, because of the sums paid to the companies of Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira. On Friday March 10, the Barcelona public prosecutor’s office charged Barça – as a legal person – and several of its former leaders with “corruption”, “breach of trust” and “false commercial records” following this scandal, qualified for “worst moment that Spanish football has ever gone through” by La Liga president Javier Tebas. Authorities suspect that the sums involved were used to bribe game managers.
“These payments recognized by Barcelona to the vice-president of the Referees Committee, it is abnormalthundered the leader, Tuesday, March 14, on the Movistar Vamos channel. It is clear that this generates tension. The reputation of our football is at stake. I am ashamed. We have no explanation from Barcelona. »
Denying any irregularity, the president of FC Barcelona, Joan Laporta, repeated that he was “clear that Barça never bought a referee nor intended to buy referees. Absolutely never! » Payments to Mr Negreira ended in 2018 after he lost his position as Spain’s No. 2 referee following a restructuring of the technical arbitration committee.
On the sporting level, the Catalan club does not risk anything in Spain, the facts older than five years being considered as prescribed; but its leaders risk criminal prison sentences. And if found guilty, in the paraphernalia of sanctions available to UEFA, the club could be banned from playing European competitions in the coming years.