Barcelona probed for suspected bribery in referee official case

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Barcelona have been charged with suspected bribery for paying €7 million ($7.3m) worth of payments to companies linked to former referee committee president José María Enriquez Negreira, according to court documents.

Former Barca presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell have also been charged, as have Negreira and his son Javier Enriquez Romero.

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Barca have previously been accused of corruption in sports, corruption in business, false administration and falsification of commercial documents.

Meanwhile, Spanish police raided the offices of the Referee Committee of the Royal Spanish Football Federation. [RFEF] Thursday in Madrid for documentation related to the case.

Police said they have not made any arrests and are acting under the direction of Judge Joaquin Aguirre, who is investigating the case.

“All RFEF staff have always cooperated with requests for information from the authorities. RFEF remains at the disposal of the judiciary for the sole purpose of clarifying the facts under investigation as soon as possible,” The Spanish Federation said in a statement.

A Spanish court first accepted a complaint filed by prosecutors against Barca, their former president and Negreira in March and opened an investigation.

The addition of bribery allegations could now accelerate a process that has been ongoing since February, when the payments were first disclosed.

In Spain, a bribery offense only requires proof that a public official or authority within the scope of their powers has requested money or some form of compensation to make an influenced decision.

Barca paid more than €7 million to Negreira’s companies between 2001 and 2018 when he was vice president of the referee committee. He was previously a referee in the Spanish top flight.

Barca president Joan Laporta said the payments were “technical reports about referees” and denied the club “bought referees or influence”.

However, prosecutors accused Rosell and Bartomeu of making a deal with Negreira in which “he would take steps aimed at favoring Barca in refereeing decisions in matches played by the club and thus in the outcome of competitions.”

Rosell was Barca president from 2010 to 2014 before being succeeded by Bartomeu. After six years at the helm of the Catalan club, Bartomeu stepped down in 2020, with Laporta elected as his successor in 2021.

Barcelona head coach Javi Hernandez addressed the story at a press conference on Thursday.

“You know my opinion,” Xavi said. “I never felt the club benefited from refereeing.

“I don’t have time to think about anything more than that, I’m focused on sports. Another Negreira story in another 15 days next week and then another month.”

Later on Thursday, Barca announced annual revenue of €1bn and an after-tax net profit of €304m for the 2022-23 campaign.

“The club can report that it has closed the 2022/23 financial year with a net profit of €304m after tax, more than was approved in last season’s budget,” Barca said. said in a statement.

“In the 2022/23 season, Barcelona achieved operating income of €1.259bn, on a consolidated level, with operating expenses of €1.165bn.”

Sources told ESPN that consolidated revenue does not include all of the money from the sale of certain club assets — known as financial leverage — which makes up the rest of the profit.

Due to the extraordinary nature of asset sales to fund the signing of Barca players in the summer of 2022, revenues will fall this season.

“For the 2023/24 season, the club projects revenue of €859m and pre-tax profit of €11m,” the statement added.

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