10th June 2023
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Barça threaten legal action against ‘insinuations’ after paying for referee reports

FC Barcelona has threatened to take legal action ‘against those who are trying to tarnish the club’s image with possible insinuations against its good reputation’, following the timing of a news report that revealed the club paid €1.4 million to a company that belonged to the former vice president of Spain’s referees committee between 2016 and 2018.

The club has denied any possible conflict of interest for having made payments for technical reports on referees and claims that the report ‘has been released precisely when the team has hit its best form of the season’, to try and ‘destabilise’ the team’s good run.

It follows an exclusive report from Spain’s Cadena SER on Wednesday that detailed Barça’s payments to a company owned by José María Enríquez Negreira, who was at the time a La Liga referee and vice president of Spain’s Technical Committee of Referees.

The payments by Barça for information on how referees officiate were made from 2016-18 and totalled €1.4 million, according to Cadena SER. The payments are under investigation as part of a tax probe into the company owned by Enríquez Negreira.

Getting reports on referees is common practice and clubs can pay other companies or have them prepared internally. It’s not known if other clubs also got them from the company of the former referee.

Barcelona president at the time the payments were made, Josep Maria Bartomeu, has said they were legitimately made and ultimately stopped due to the club’s decision to cut costs.

The Spanish Football Federation has said that Enríquez Negreira left the referees committee after the new administration took over in 2018.

‘The refereeing committee regrets behaviour that could be considered unethical,’ the federation said in a statement. ‘No active referee or member of the committee can participate in work that could be considered a conflict of interest.’

Enríquez Negreira told SER he never favoured Barcelona while assigning referees to matches, and that his job was only to aid the club verbally about how players should conduct themselves before each referee.

FC Barcelona said the ‘technical reports related to professional refereeing’ and were ordered ‘in order to complement the information requested by the first and second team coaching staff’.

The club said reviewing reports on referees is ‘a common practice among professional football clubs’. They are currently prepared internally at Barcelona instead of being outsourced, the club said.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta said the news about the payments was released now to try to destabilise the team’s good run. 

‘Barcelona is sorry that this information has been released precisely when the team has hit its best form of the season,’ the club said. ‘Barcelona shall be taking legal actions against those who are trying to tarnish the club’s image with possible insinuations against its good reputation that could be caused by the release of such information.’

Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez also defended the club.

‘We always analyse the referees, we want to know who is refereeing, if they are communicative or not,’ he said. ‘It’s been like that for years. It’s not new.’

Image from the Spanish Super Cup Final (German Parga – FC Barcelona)

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