As reported by The Guardian via Reuters, Spanish prosecutors are investigating around €1.4m in payments La Liga club Barcelona made over three years to a company owned by an official of Spain’s refereeing body.
On Wednesday, Spanish outlet Cadena SER reported that the Catalan club made payments from 2016 to 2018 to a company of José María Enríquez Negreira while he served as vice president of the Technical Committee of Referees (known by its Spanish acronym CTA), the governing body of the referees of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).
The investigation began in 2022 following a tax audit of the company Dasnil, owned by former referee Negreira, and aims to find out what motivated that disbursement.
The payments under scrutiny took place during Josep Maria Bartomeu’s term as Barça president, although according to the sources consulted by El País, they date back to the last two decades.
In a statement, Barcelona said the club had “hired the services of an external consultant” that supplied it with “technical reports related to professional refereeing”, adding that it is “a common practice among professional football clubs”.
On Wednesday, former Barcelona president Bartomeu told Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo that the payments were made before 2003, totalling €575,000 per year since the 2009-10 season, and were stopped in 2018.
The payments were made by “various boards of directors” of the club since the time of club president Joan Gaspart (2000-2003), and also including the terms of Joan Laporta, Sandro Rosell and Bartomeu, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Dasnil is a company that Negreira formed in 1995, just one year after being appointed number two in the referees’ governing body, and only three years after giving up his career as a professional referee.
Negreira said, as reported by SER, that his advice was verbal and included players’ interactions with referees. He also denied ever favouring the Camp Nou side in any refereeing decision.
Kieran Quaile | GSFN