Barcelona statements on payments to referees’ chief: what have club and Laporta said?
Barça have responded to AS and Cadena SER Catalunya’s reports that the club paid nearly €1.4m to the former vice-president of Spain’s refereeing committee.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta has responded to reports that the club made large payments to a high-level official in the body that governs Spain’s referees, claiming it is “no coincidence” that the revelations have emerged now.
AS and radio station Cadena SER Catalunya revealed on Wednesday that José María Enríquez Negreira, who at the time was the vice-president of Spain’s Technical Committee of Referees, was paid nearly €1.4m by Barça between 2016 and 2018.
Told tax agency investigation that Barça paid for “complete neutrality”
According to an investigation into the payments by Spain’s tax agency, the Agencia Tributaria, Enríquez Negreira has said Barça wanted to ensure “there would be complete neutrality” in refereeing decisions affecting the club.
The Agencia Tributaria’s report reads: “As Mr. Enríquez has told auditors, FCB paid him through [the company] DASNIL 95 SL for technical guidance, as FCB wanted to make sure that refereeing decisions weren’t going to go against them, that is to say, that there would be complete neutrality.”
Reports a “surprise” to Barcelona, says Laporta
Speaking to Barça TV on Wednesday, Laporta said: “The reports surprise us, to be honest, and it’s no coincidence that they have come out now.
“And what I can say is that any fanciful, biased interpretation that insinuates things that aren’t true will receive the appropriate, proportionate response from Fútbol Club Barcelona.
“We’re prepared to take any legal action necessary to defend the honour of this club. It’s no coincidence that this report has come out at this time, when things are going so well for Barça.”
Earlier, Barça released a statement that acknowledged the club had paid for “technical reports relating to professional refereeing”, but described this as “a common practice among professional football clubs”.
“In the past, FC Barcelona hired the services of an external technical consultant, who provided, in video format, technical reports on players in age-group teams of the Spanish State for the office of the club’s technical secretary,” the 26-time LaLiga champions said.
“In addition, the relationship with the external supplier was broadened by [the commissioning of] technical reports relating to professional refereeing, with aim of supplementing information required by the first-team and second-team coaching staff, a common practice among professional football clubs.”
The Blaugrana added: “FC Barcelona regrets the fact that these reports have emerged just when the club is enjoying its best period of the season on the pitch.
“FC Barcelona will take legal action against anyone who, as a result of these reports, damages the club’s image with insinuations that go against the organisation’s reputation.”