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Barça is to face a new judicial conflict due to the Negreira case. Spanish public prosecutors have decided to denounce Futbol Club Barcelona for continued corruption in sport over the payments made to the former vice-president of Spain's Technical Committee of Referees (CTA) José María Enríquez Negreira, as El País reports. The prosecution service's complaint will also include the ex-blaugrana president Josep Maria Bartomeu and members of his management team. Prosecutors have been examining the alleged payments of 1.4 million euros which the Catalan club made to Negreira between 2016 and 2018, when Bartomeu led the club, part of a total of 7 million euros that Barcelona transferred to the senior referee between 2001 and 2018.

Complaint against Barça, Bartomeu and ex-managers

The Prosecutor's Office is, then, about to submit to the courts its complaint that will accuse Barça of being responsible, under the designation of a legal entity, of corruption in business activities. This includes fraud in the sports sector. And, in the case of this complaint, it is presumed to have a more serious grading, since it has been a continuous practice.

Barca escut EuropaPress
Entrance to the Barça offices at Camp Nou / Photo: Europa Press

The Negreira case, then, stems from actions that were set in motion long ago, because the payments started at the time when Josep Lluís Núñez and Joan Gaspart were leading the Blaugrana club - up till 2003. But the payments then continued: periodically, Negreira continued to receive transfers from Barça under presidents Joan Laporta (in his period with the club), Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu. More than twenty years paying ex-referee Negreira handsomely supposedly for writing reports that were delivered to the club.

And since Bartomeu was the president who broke this link in 2018, and was also the one who received threats from Negreira himself, he is now the one who will bear the criminal consequences. Along with the former club president, some of his team of directors at the time are also included in the complaint.

Josep Maria Bartomeu juicio Neymar / Foto: Bernat Aguilar
Josep Maria Bartomeu testifying during the Neymar DIS case trial / Photo: Bernat Aguilar

Barça, "calm" 

Despite this, at Can Barça they maintain an absolute calm. Joan Laporta affirms that "Barça has not dedicated itself to buying referees". A very forthright statement, although he spoke even more forcefully when he stated that "Barça will not come out of this damaged". The culer president has also asserted: "I don't know the vice president of the CTA."

Meanwhile, the Catalan club has started its own internal investigation into the Negreira case. Laporta and his management assert that they want to clarify everything that has happened and for this reason they say they will also reveal the results of the internal reports when the work is complete.

Joan Laporta Negreira / Foto: Eva Parey
Joan Laporta speaking before the press from the Camp Nou pitch / Photo: Eva Parey

And even if all the clubs in the League - except Real Madrid - have asked for measures to be taken against Barça, what is already clear is that in terms of sport, this alleged crime is now time-barred. Both UEFA and FIFA have communicated in recent weeks that this case is subject to the statute of limitations, and they have "no comment to make" on the Negreira payments.