Barcelona has been charged with “suspected bribery” by a Spanish judge, and if proven guilty, the team might be barred from competing in the Champions League.
According to reports, the Catalan club has been accused of suspected bribery by Judge Joaquin Aguirre regarding payments made to the former vice president of the Technical Committee of Referees (CTA), Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, over a 17-year period.
Barca is accused of paying €7.5 million (€7.9 million) to companies owned by Negreira between 2001 and 2018, including during current president Joan Laporta’s first term.
Both Barca and Laporta have denied misconduct in the case.
The Catalan club stated in February that they had engaged an external consultant to provide them with “technical reports relevant to professional refereeing,” saying that this was a standard practice among professional clubs.
Laporta described the issue as a “gigantic reputational discrediting campaign” against Barcelona owing to “defamatory insinuations” in a press conference earlier this year.
He accused those involved of “wanting to destroy one of Catalonia’s emblems, such as FC Barcelona,” and predicted that “Barca would not be hurt” as a result of this.
Laporta earlier stated that the payments were only for “technical reports on refereeing.”
Former Barcelona presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell, as well as Negreira and his son Javier Enriquez Romero, have also been charged in the case.
Barcelona was charged in March with “continuous corruption amongst persons in the sports field” by the Barcelona provincial prosecutor’s office.
Prosecutors charged Rosell and Bartomeu with having a “strictly confidential verbal agreement” with Negreira so that “he would carry out actions aimed at favouring Barcelona in the decision-making of the referees in the matches played by the club and thus in the results of the competitions.”
However, UEFA conducted its own investigation into the Spanish giants after they were charged in March, as per Forbes, with Spanish outlet Marca carrying the key points of their subsequent findings.
UEFA declared in July that the club has been “provisionally admitted to participate in the 2023/24 UEFA club competitions,” but noted that “a future decision on admission or exclusion from UEFA club competitions is reserved.”
They further stated: “The EDIs in charge of the case are invited to continue and complete their investigation and send a new report to the UEFA Appeal Body if and when they consider that the admission or exclusion of FC Barcelona should be evaluated.”
That revelation suggests that, if Barcelona is found guilty of bribery, UEFA may reconsider allowing the club to compete in its competitions, including the Champions League, in the future.