Ex-Barcelona vice president Bartomeu: “It’s absurd to think we paid off referees”
Josep Maria Bartomeu says Barcelona did pay DASNIL 95 for reports on referees but that their conduct was in no way illegal.
Josep Maria Bartomeu, Barcelona president between 2015 and 2020, believes the controversy surrounding ‘Barçagate’ has been blown out of all propostion. On Wednesday, Cadena SER Catalunya’s Què t’hi jugues radio programme uncovered a series of payments made by Barça to DASNIL 95, a company owned by José María Enriquez Negreira, the former vice president of the Spanish Soccer Federation’s Technical Committee of Referees, who provided them with “technical advice” related to refereeing.
Speaking to La Vaguardia, Bartomeu recalls that the relationship between DASNIL 95 and Barcelona started long before he became president, specifically during the tenure Josep Llúís Núñez, who left his role in 2000. Bartomeu then states the link-up continued when Joan Laporta, Sandro Rosell and he himself were at the helm. It was in 2018, with Bartomeu still at the club, when the payments ended.
“False and absurd” claims
However, Bartomeu denies that the services provided by Enriquez Negreira’s company were related to attempts to influence the referees in any way. “It is completely false and absurd to think that we paid off any referees. We have nothing to hide”. The former Barça president claims that the payments were made in exchange for referee reports that are considered “normal” in the world of soccer and that the coaching staff requested them.
“The reports exist, they were delivered to both the first team and Barça B before each game to provide information about the referee that was in charge. The coaches and players appreciated them. If we had been able influence the referees, they would not have disallowed a goal on the last day of the season against Atlético that gave them the league title, it is absurd to think that. And I could give more examples.”
Barcelona “hardly had any contact with Enriquez Negreira”
Bartomeu acknowledges that the person who supplied the aforementioned reports, in DVD form, was always Javier Enríquez Romero, the son of Enriquez Negreira and the manager of DASNIL 95. “Not only did he make these kinds of reports, he also advised us on other matters. He was a very good professional. I hardly had any contact with his father”, he reveals. In 2018, along with then-Barcelona CEO Òscar Grau and General Manager Pep Segura, they decided to stop outsourcing the reports and do them internally in order to cut costs, which coincided with the end of Enriquez Negrerira’s time as vice president of the Technical Committee of Referees. “It was a coincidence”, says Bartomeu, who does admit that he and the other presidents involved had doubts about whether what they were doing was “morally right”, although they never questioned its legality. “We paid a lot of money, it’s true”, he acknowledeges.
Since the Barcelona Prosecutor’s Office began investigating the case for alleged corruption between individuals (prompted by the Treasury becoming suspicious once it suspected that DASNIL 95 SL was trying to deduct amounts from its taxes that did not seem to add up), a whole host of people have been asked to give statements, including Bartomeu.