The Barcelona Prosecutor’s Office is looking into claims that FC Barcelona paid $1.5 million over the course of three years to a business held by a senior official with Spain’s referee committee, CTA, during the time.
According to a report published on Wednesday by the Spanish radio station Cadena SER, the club paid a number of payments between 2016 and 2018 to a business controlled by José Mara Enrquez Negreira.
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Enriquez Negreira was vice president of the CTA at the time.
The CTA is the regulating organization in charge of selecting the referees and assistant referees for Spain’s weekly fixtures.
According to Cadena SER, FC Barcelona’s final payment was made in June 2018, just around the time Enriquez Negreira left the CTA.
In order to cut expenditures at the club, Josep Maria Bartomeu, the previous president of Barça, said he stopped making the payments at that moment.
Bartomeu continued by saying that the firm has been receiving money at least since 2003, the year he first started working at the club.
Enriquez Negreira told Cadena SER that he never chose Barça as his preferred team when making decisions or choosing referees.
When Cadena SER questioned Enriquez Negreira about the probe into the payments, he admitted to just working for Barcelona.
Enriquez Negreira has been contacted by CNN for comment, but no response has been received.
Barcelona stated in a statement published on its website that it was aware of the inquiries into the payments.
The football team claims that in the past, it employed a “external consultant” to give staff members “technical reports” on “professional officiating,” which it said was “standard procedure” in football, as well as video reports on young players from all around Spain.
The football department employee doing these formerly outsourced duties, according to FC Barcelona, and the club warned legal action against anybody attempting to “tarnish the club’s image with probable insinuations.”
Barça has been contacted by CNN for comment.
The release of this information at this time, when things are going well [on the field], is no coincidence, according to current club president Joan Laporta, who spoke to Barça TV.
In light of the fact that Barcelona’s final payment to the business was made in 2018, LaLiga president Javier Tebas stated on Thursday that no penalties or other punishments will be implemented.
He clarified that under Spanish law, penalties must be applied within three years of any potential errors.
Tebas says LaLiga will hold off on making any decisions until the results of the prosecutor’s probe.
The Barcelona prosecutor’s office told CNN that a probe was ongoing but insisted that the discussions were confidential.
Enrquez Negreira “has not been a member of any federation organization since the change of leadership achieved following the 2018 elections,” the CTA claimed in a statement issued on Wednesday.
The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) reports that it has consented to take the witness stand in any upcoming legal procedures.