Barcelona may likely be banned from Champions League next season as UEFA steps into the club’s referee bribery scandal.
Barcelona were dragged into murky waters after Spanish prosecutors unearthed a scandalous report the club had bribed one of the biggest names in the Spanish referees association, Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira.
The Catalan club, who are also battling Financial Fair Play Rules with the Laliga are now wallowing in another pit after the alleged scandal.
Barcelona allegedly bribed Jose Maria with a cumulative sum of £6.7m for a period spanning 17 years.
The payment to Jose Maria Enriquez is said to have started in 2001 and running through 2018, with a number of top coaches caught up during the period. Luiz Enrique and Pep Guardiola are some of the big-name managers that took charge of the Catalans within the 17 years period.
Spanish prosecutors have slammed the club with charges with investigations ongoing but the club has denied any wrongdoing.
The club has not disputed the payment to Jose Maria Enriquez but maintained it was for consultancy services and purely a professional engagement.
Two former Barcelona presidents Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell have officially been indicted by prosecutors.
While the authorities are yet to establish that payments made to Jose Maria Enriquez in the 17 years has influenced match outcomes, Barcelona are equally unable to offer a “clear explanation” on the payments.
UEFA wades into allegations
According to the Sun, Barcelona may not be slammed with punishments if the charges are proven. Spanish FA rules have a “three-year statute of limitations for serious offences, meaning the LaLiga and national association cannot issue a punishment.
In light of the limitations espoused by Spanish FA rules, UEFA have reportedly waded into the incident and are ready to implement a ban if Barcelona is found guilty.
The legal arm of UEFA has reportedly asked for details of the allegations and has already begun its own independent investigations.
UEFA executives reportedly reached the decision to wade into the allegations in Nyon issuing a statement which reads;
“In accordance with Article 31(4) of the Uefa Disciplinary Regulations, Uefa Ethics, and Disciplinary Inspectors have today been appointed to conduct an investigation regarding a potential violation of UEFA’s legal framework by FC Barcelona in connection with the so-called ‘Caso Negreira’.”
Sources close to the European football governing body claim Barcelona may face twelve months ban from UEFA competitions if found guilty by the body.
Barcelona are currently leading the LaLiga with 12 points and are set to win the domesic title and qualify for Champions League next season.
A UEFA Ban could deepen their already worsening financial crisis. Barcelona President Joan Laporte is currently jostling with LaLiga Chief Javier Tebas on finacial irregularities.
Tebas has insisted Barcelona must sell players to offset their heavy transfer spending due to their dwindling financial fortunes.
The Champions League would have been a huge leverage for the club to lessened the pressure and offset spending through heavy revenue in-flows.
Hence, a UEFA ban could dealt the Blaugrana a fatal blow and escalate their volatile financial condition.