FC Barcelona and two ex-presidents charged with corruption over payments to referees chief

Prosecutors believe Barça paid to have "actions tending to favor" them in matches and competitions

Interior of FC Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium
Interior of FC Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium / Cillian Shields
Cillian Shields

Cillian Shields | @pile_of_eggs | Barcelona

March 10, 2023 08:30 PM

March 23, 2023 01:58 PM

FC Barcelona and two of its former presidents, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, have been charged with corruption over the payments scandal to the former referees official, Jose Maria Enríquez Negreira.

Negreira, the former vice president of the Technical Committee of Referees (CTA) between 1994-2018, is also charged with a corruption case brought forward by public prosecutors. 

Former Barça directors Òscar Grau and Albert Soler are also included in the indictments. 

In their written document, prosecutors accuse Barça of having "reached and maintained a strictly confidential verbal agreement with the accused Negreira, so that, in his capacity as vice president of the CTA and in exchange for money, he would carry out actions tending to favor FCB in the decision-making of the referees in matches that the club played, and thus in the results of competitions."

The investigating body believes there to be evidence of continuous corruption between the club and former officiator José María Enríquez Negreira. Prosecutors are investigating the alleged irregular nature of the payments of €1.4 million by FC Barcelona to Negreira between 2016 and 2018, as part of a total of nearly €7 million payments he received since 2001. 

Specifically, the charges that have been made are continuous corruption between individuals in sports, continuous fraudulent administration, and continuous forgery of commercial documents.

The fact that the charges made are 'continuous' differ from being a one-off event, meaning that the potential penalties could be even larger. 

Starting in May 2022, Spain's tax authorities were first to investigate the alleged irregularity of the payments received by Negreira's company, Dasnil. 

Barcelona have attempted to explain that the payments were for reports, sometimes delivered audiovisually and sometimes verbally, about the characteristics of referees in charge of their games, but the sizes of the payments involved continue to raise eyebrows. 

In his own testimony to the tax authorities, Negreira said that they payments were to ensure that Barcelona games were officiated by "neutral" referees and to ensure that "decisions were not made against" the Catalan club. 

Dating back to 2001, the payments span the presidencies of numerous leaders of FC Barcelona: Joan Gaspart (2000-2003), Joan Laporta (2003-2010), Sandro Rosell (2010-2014) and Josep Maria Bartomeu (2014-2020). 

Bartomeu ended the payments in 2018, and according to various media reports, Negreira then threatened the club by going public with the payments as a respose. El País report that the company, Dasnil, then saw income plummet after 2018, as Barça were essentially their only client.