Prosecutors in Spain confirmed Friday they have filed corruption charges against Barcelona and the club’s former presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu for payments made to the former vice president of the refereeing committee.
Ex-club executives Oscar Grau and Albert Soler are also listed among the defendants, along with former referee Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, whose company received almost €7 million ($7.5 million) from Barca from 2001 to 2018.
They stand accused of corruption in sport, corruption in business, false administration and the falsification of commercial documents.
A statement from prosecutors read: “Through presidents Rosell and Bartomeu, Barcelona reached and maintained a strictly confidential verbal agreement with the defendant Negreira, so that, in his capacity as vice president of the refereeing committee and in exchange for money, 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.”
Rosell, Barca president from 2010 to 2014, was replaced by Bartomeu. After six years at the helm of the Catalan club, Bartomeu resigned in 2020, with Joan Laporta eventually elected as his replacement in 2021.
Barca say the payments made to Negreira’s company, Dasnil 95 SL, were for “technical reports on refereeing” and argue such services are common at the top end of the game.
Laporta, who could be called as a witness because he was also president from 2003 to 2010, disputed this week that the club had ever bought off officials.
“Barca have never bought referees nor influence,” he said Tuesday. “That was never the intention and that has to be clear. The facts contradict those that are trying to tell a different story.”
Until now, Negreira, who left his role as vice president of Spain’s refereeing committee in 2018, had been the sole focus of the investigation for payments worth €1.4m received from Barca from 2016 to 2018 after they were flagged by the tax office.
However, prosecutors, having reviewed payments made from 2014 to 2018, have now decided to also pursue charges against Rosell, Bartomeu, Grau and Soler.
Payments made prior to that period do not appear on the indictment.
LaLiga chief Javier Tebas has said Barca cannot face any sporting sanctions in Spain because more than three years has passed, but he has promised to revisit the case once the legal proceedings have reached a conclusion.
Both the Spanish Football Federation and LaLiga have also provided information and documents on the case to UEFA, which could yet decide to act depending on the outcome. FIFA could also step in, although world football’s governing body has not yet responded to a request for comment on the latest developments from ESPN.