FC SCANDALONA: Barca charged with bribing referees after early morning raid on Spanish FA headquarters

FC BARCELONA could be in some very hot water after morning raids on the Spanish football association’s offices resulted in the club being charged with bribing referees.

The Guardia Civil conducted early morning searches of the committee’s base located in the headquarters of Spain’s football federation in Las Rozas on the outskirts of Madrid on Thursday.

If found guilty over payments made to a former ref chief, the club faces a raft of possible sanctions that could even see the 124-year-old institution dissolved as a going concern – although this is unlikely.

At the heart of this storm are two former Barcelona presidents, Sandro Rosell and Josep María Bartomeu, along with two other directors. 

The most serious charge they are facing is corruption in business, which could lead to hefty fines and between three and six years in prison.

They are also charged with sports fraud, and Rosell and Bartomeu are separately accused of false administration and the falsification of commercial documents, which could see them disqualified from running a business. 

However, the most likely outcome is a fine if the club is found guilty, which could amount to three times the ‘amount obtained or advantage gained.’

The charges stem from allegations that the club made payments worth over €7 million to companies linked to the former vice president of the refereeing committee, José María Enríquez Negreira between 2001 and 2018.

Negreira was the vice-president of the Technical Committee of Referee (CTA) from 1993 to 2018, which is responsible for evaluating and recommending referee promotions and demotions. 

It also plays a pivotal role in designating international referees and assigning observer-informants to assess referee performances.

The decision to charge the directors, by Judge Joaquín Aguirre, hinges on the belief that ‘logically, the payments made by FC Barcelona served the club’s interests due to their duration and annual increase.’ 

He went on to specify that ‘the offence has been consummated with the payment, regardless of whether systemic corruption in Spanish refereeing due to such payments is proven or not.’

The multi-million euro payments to Negreira ‘served the club’s interests’, according to Aguirre, and ‘yielded the desired refereeing effects for FC Barcelona, potentially leading to unequal treatment of other teams and systemic corruption throughout Spanish refereeing.’ 

He also claims that Negreira blackmailed the club into continuing the payments even after he had left his position. 

Negreira allegedly sent an intimidating letter to Bartomeu essentially warning that if they didn’t continue payments, he would reveal potentially damaging information about the club. 

The judge concluded that this letter demonstrates Negreira’s awareness of ‘serious illicit acts in favour of FC Barcelona.’


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