UEFA president Alexander Ceferin has said that the corruption matter against Barcelona “is one of the most serious in football” that he has ever seen.
Ceferin was hesitant to expatiate on his comments in an interview with Slovenian newspaper Ekipa, although noted that the gravity of the indictments are possibly unprecedented in his experience.
The Blaugrana side have been charged with corruption due to payments made by the club to the former vice-president of the Spanish referees committee, Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira.
UEFA had asked in March to conduct their own findings in addition to Spain’s prosecutor’s office. The Slovenian football administrator in an interview said:
“I have been informed and the situation is extremely serious. It is so serious that, in my opinion, it is one of the most serious in football that I have seen”.
Spain’s public prosecutor has pointed an accusing finger at the club, accusing them of maintaining a relationship with Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira in which he carried out some actions “in exchange for money”.
“Those alleged actions carried out by Negreira are actions that “lead to Barcelona being favoured in the decision making of the referees”.
What Barcelona have been accused of doing
Barcelona have been accused of paying £6.46 million to Dansil and Nilsat, two organizations owned by the former vice-president of the Spanish referees committee.
Ceferin added: “I cannot comment directly on this for two reasons.
“Firstly, because we have an independent disciplinary committee in charge of it. And secondly, because I have not dealt with this matter in detail.
“At the level of the Spanish League, the matter is prescribed and cannot have competitive consequences. The proceedings are ongoing at the level of the Spanish civil prosecutor’s office. But as far as UEFA is concerned, there is nothing time-barred.”
The rocking news first struck Barcelona in March when an investigation into a company owned by Negreira established a £1.2 million payment from the Spanish side, during a two year timeframe till 2018 for “technical advice on referees”.
A newspaper in Spain El Mundo afterwards released a report that payments from Barcelona to Negreira’s company date back to 2001.
That time frame includes the time Joan Laporta was first president of the club and he would now have to provide evidence to those making the findings.
The Spanish club say it was for external consultancy
Barcelona claimed that the payments were for services relating to “external” consultancy and it was for Negreira to provide reports “related to professional refereeing in order to complement information required by the coaching staff’.
The club insinuated that it was something that was “common practice in professional football clubs”.
Joan Laporta was quizzed about the scandal at the beginning of March and he said: “Barca has never bought referees and Barca has never had any intention of buying referees. Absolutely never.
“The forcefulness of the facts contradicts those who try to change the story.”
Meanwhile, Barcelona have released a statement requesting for the president of La Liga Javier Tebas to resign after a report in La Vanguardia linked him with providing false information in the Negreira case.
The club put out a statement on its website which reads:
“Given the gravity of the information that has appeared today Monday in La Vanguardia in which La Liga president Javier Tebas is linked to the presentation of false evidence to the public prosecutor to incriminate our club, FC Barcelona wishes to express its deepest indignation, anger and dismay.
“For that reason, we urgently require the La Liga president to appear in public to explain himself, beyond the tweet sent in the early hours by Mr.Tebas, lacking substance and with a threatening tone.
“FC Barcelona, as president Joan Laporta repeated in recent weeks, feels itself to be the victim of a media campaign for events that never took place: Barça has never paid referees.
“This harassment involves a group of media outlets and opinion writers with varying degrees of intent and with La Liga fanning the flames behind the scenes against out Club, with contributions from its president who has only gone in one direction: trying to condemn us in the public’s eyes before the facts have been judged.
“It is not the first time that the president of La Liga has used the media weapons at his disposal to damage FC Barcelona, however, in contrast to his usual nonsense, we could never have imagined that he could try to incriminate our club with false evidence.
“The article published today by La Vanguardia is of such gravity that it should put all the clubs in La Liga on alert, given that it talks of practices which are in no way consistent with the job of the president of La Liga.
“If only for this fact, that of giving himself powers that do not belong to him, although also for reasons of dignity and respect for the presidency of La Liga, Mr.Tebas should resign from his post.
“Nevertheless, aware of his obsession with persecuting FC Barcelona and showing his constant averse and manifest dislike of our Club, we understand that the current La Liga president will persist in his efforts to keep damaging our club”.
The Spanish heavyweights have severally denied acting in manners that are misappropriate, stating they made payments to referees for technical reports on match officials.
However, Barcelona have claimed they have never made any attempt to influence the outcome of any encounter or the decisions of referees in matches.