Barcelona directors have claimed a top refereeing boss in Spain was paid by the club for almost two decades as an act of ‘self defence’, according to Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
The club was charged with corruption over payments made to Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, the then vice-president of the Spanish referees’ committee, last Friday.
The accusation stated that Negreira ‘in exchange for money’ carried out actions that would ‘lead to Barcelona being favoured in the decision making of the referees’.
El Mundo has spoken to former directors of the club and been told by them that Barcelona was protecting itself against a perceived bias against it.
The version of events matches the one given by Negreira when he was originally investigated by Spain’s Inland Revenue. He said that Barcelona hired him to guarantee ‘neutral’ refereeing.
El Mundo says it has also been told confidentially by the former Barcelona directors that ties were not cut with Negreira because he threatened to take revenge on the club by revealing the relationship.
This fits with faxes published by El Mundo sent from Negreira’s lawyers to the club at the end of 2019 and the start of 2020 when the club had finally stopped paying the, by then former, vice-president of the Referees’ Committee.
The Public Prosecutor in Spain claims Barcelona paid Negreira €7.3million (£6.46m) via two companies he owened – DASNIL and NILSAT.
Investigators will now interview former Barcelona coaches Luis Enrique and Ernesto Valverde as well as president Joan Laporta who was almost in tears when he addressed a group of Barcelona players from all sports and youth categories on Monday telling them he was emotional because he was desperate to: ‘take on the shameless individuals staining the club’s badge’.
The president’s main immediate concern will be that the furore around the scandal does not affect the financing plans for the new stadium.
The club were due to finalize the process of obtaining financial backing for the rebuild project by the end of this month but Spanish media have reported that the terms could now have changed because of the scandal.
The club plans to take out loans of up to 1.5bn euros for the stadium rebuild.
Barcelona’s plan to move to the city’s Olympic stadium from the start of next season while the Camp Nou is redeveloped is set to cost them 94m euros in lost matchday revenue because the 49,000 venue is so much smaller than the 99,000 capacity Camp Nou.