Barça board told “you have to pay to be respected”
Former club president Sandro Rosell reportedly insisted that payments to then-referees chief Enríquez Negreira must be maintained.
The sprawling story of payments made by FC Barcelona to José María Enríquez Negreira, formerly the vice president of the Spanish refereeing committee, took another turn on Monday with a new report on Catalan radio station SER.
Manu Carreño reports that in 2003 the club’s board of directors claimed that the payments to Negreira must be maintained to ensure that the club was treated with ‘respect.’ These words have been jumped upon in light of an ongoing investigation into the payments.
As the club was preparing to install Joan Laporta for his first term as president, then-board member Sandro Rosell informed other members of the club hierarchy about the payments to Negreira. SER claims that Rosell told the board: “If we want them to continue to respect us, we have to continue paying.”
So far the club and current president Laporta have insisted that the money, totalling more than €7 million over 17 years, was payment for refereeing reports compiled by Negreira’s company. However the club has not yet shown any evidence of the reports themselves and claimed that the findings were not shared with first team coaches.
What did Joan Laporta say about the refereeing committee payments?
When Laporta won election for the first time in 2003 he was aided by Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu. All three men would go on to be Barcelona president at different points in the 17-year period in question and new reports suggest that they discussed increasing the payments significantly around the time that Laporta took charge.
Spanish publication El Larguero claims that Rosell took the initiative, explaining the details of the payments “inherited from Joan Gaspart,” the outgoing club president. The report adds that Rosell told the board that it was neccesssary to increase the payments to the ex-referee if they wanted respect.
However on Monday, Laporta insisted that the club had done nothing wrong and that the investigation was the result of sporting rivalries.
“Some, motivated by envy, try to erode our reputation with campaigns carried out in bad faith,” Laporta claimed.
“Barcelona’s integrity cannot be bought or sold, and will not be tarnished. Recently there have been ferocious attacks attempting to dirty our badge that have nothing to do with reality. The board of directors of this club will defend it.”
Also on Monday the president of the Higher Sports Council, José Manuel Franco, announced that he will cooperate with investigations into the Negreira case. Last week it was revealed that the Prosecutor’s Office plans to call two former Barcelona coaches, Luis Enrique and Ernesto Valverde, as witnesses.