Uefa launch probe into Barcelona referee bribe claims

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European football’s governing body will now investigate payments made to vice-president of Spanish Football Association’s refereeing committee.

Uefa have announced that it will be launching an investigation into claims Barcelona bribed referees into making favourable decisions.

A Barcelona court agreed to take on the case last week over alleged payments of €7.3 million ($7.95 million) from 2001 to 2018 made to Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira and his Dasnil 95 company.

Negreira was vice-president of the Spanish Football Association’s refereeing committee from 1993 to 2018.

Prosecutors in Spain have formally accused Barcelona of corruption, fraudulent management and falsification of business documents. An investigating judge will decide if this will lead to charges.

Charges were filed earlier this month against the club, Negreira and two former Barcelona presidents, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, among others.

Now football’s European governing body has announced it will also be investigating the claims.

A statement on Thursday read: “In accordance with article 31(4) of the UEFA disciplinary regulations, Uefa ethics and disciplinary inspectors have today been appointed to conduct an investigation regarding a potential violation of Uefa’s legal framework by FC Barcelona in connection with the so-called ‘Caso Negreira’.”

Champions League regulations in effect since April 2007 allow for clubs to be removed from European competitions if they were involved in fixing matches. Further disciplinary sanctions can follow.

No evidence has yet been published that referees or individual games were actually influenced.

Barca have previously denied wrongdoing. A statement said they had paid an external consultant for “technical reports related to professional refereeing”, arguing it was common practice in the game.

Current president Joan Laporta said: “Barca have never bought referees nor influence. That was never the intention and that has to be clear. The facts contradict those that are trying to tell a different story.”

La Liga chief executive Javier Tebas has said that Laporta should resign if he was unable to explain the payments, while rivals Real Madrid have confirmed they will appear in the case as an “injured party” to defend their interests.

In previous cases of suspected match-fixing, clubs including Fenerbahce, Metalist Kharkiv and Skenderbeu were banned from Uefa competitions in decisions that were upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Fenerbahce were withdrawn from the 2011-12 Champions League by the Turkish football federation, seemingly under pressure from Uefa, after being implicated in manipulating games to help secure the previous season’s league domestic title. The club was later banned for two more seasons.

Former Albanian champions Skenderbeu are serving a 10-year ban after a Uefa investigation into match-fixing for betting scams, including Champions League qualifying games and Europa League group games.

Barcelona are currently 12 points clear at the top of the La Liag after last weekend’s clasico win over Real Madrid, But they have been knocked out of both the Champions League and Europa League this season.

Source: The National

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