Barcelona is facing an investigation into allegations of “continuous sporting corruption” by the Spanish courts after prosecutors filed charges last week.
The club has been accused of making payments to former vice president of the refereeing committee, Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, in exchange for information about match officials and their potential appointments.
Negreira, a former La Liga referee, is alleged to have received around €7m from Barcelona between 2001 and 2018 for this information through detailed reports and video analysis.
The charges submitted by prosecutors accuse former Barcelona presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu of having an arrangement with Negreira that “he would carry out actions aimed at favoring Barça in the decision-making of the referees in the matches played by the club and thus in the results of the competitions.”
Barcelona’s current president, Joan Laporta, has insisted that the club committed no wrongdoing in requesting “technical reports about referees.”
However, reports from Spain suggest that there could be a lack of key evidence to support this accusation. If found guilty, Barcelona could be barred from entering next season’s UEFA Champions League, although La Liga President Javier Tebas has said that they cannot face a sporting sanction on home soil, as the charges are beyond the three-year threshold in which clubs can be held accountable for such irregularities.
Barcelona has been plagued by a series of financial and administrative crises in recent years, including allegations of tax evasion, embezzlement, and mismanagement.
The club is also facing significant debt, with reports suggesting that their overall debt could be as high as €1.2bn. The team’s star player, Lionel Messi, left the club in 2021 to join Paris Saint-Germain after failing to agree on a new contract, which would have made him the highest-paid player in the world.