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Is Barcelona allowed to play in 2023/24 Champions League?

With the investigations into the Negreira refereeing scandal ongoing, doubts continue to circle over the immediate UEFA future of the Spanish champions.

With the investigations into the Negreira refereeing scandal continuing, doubts continue to circle over the immediate UEFA future of the Spanish champions.

On Sunday we watched as FC Barcelona secured the 2022/23 LaLiga Santander title, doing so with a win over local rivals Espanyol, leaving a large enough gap so that it cannot be closed in the remaining games by chasers Real Madrid and Atlético. Back to winning ways under the leadership of club legend Xavi Hernández and, despite disappointing in European competition this season, those related to the Catalan club can prepare for to rub shoulders with the world’s elite in the next edition of the Champions League. Or can they?

Did Barcelona get their UCL licence for 2023/24?

Back at the end of April it was reported that UEFA would grant the then champions-elect a licence for the upcoming Champions League, enabling Xavi’s side to take part despite the investigation currently being carried out into the Negreira refereeing ‘scandal’ by UEFA’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body. It was said then, by Santi Nolla at Mundo Deportivo, that it would be finally confirmed on or before 15 May. On Friday the same outlet stated that this had been finalised on 9 May. There’s a ‘but’ coming, though...

Can UEFA still ban Barcelona?

As yet, it has been reported that UEFA does not posses “any information that supports prohibiting Barcelona from competing” because it has not been proven that there was “clear incompatibility” between the positions José María Enríquez Negreira held as Vice President of Technical Committee of Referees and as owner of the company that received payments from the club. The RFEF (the Spanish Soccer Federation) had already come to the same conclusion.

In his article, Nolla stated that “for the criminal legal process to continue, it is necessary to prove that referees were paid off or that there was an intention to do so. The mere possibility of it is not enough.”

All that said, the investigation rumbles on and UEFA still have at their disposal the right to sanction a club, even if previously agreeing to a licence, if rules are found to be broken.

Celebrations after winning the title.
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Celebrations after winning the title.JOAN M. BASCUDiarioAS

How much money would Barça lose if banned from UCL?

At least for the moment, those involved at Barça are able to breathe a sigh of relief and president Joan Laporta’s efforts this far to prove the club’s innocence appear to have come off. First, he sent a letter to the presidents of UEFA and FIFA asking them not to jump to any conclusions before finding out all the details. Then, after addressing fellow LaLiga club president at the LaLiga Assembly in Madrid, he flew out to Ljubljana in Slovenia to explain the situation in person to UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.

If, however, more evidence comes to light and Barcelona were banned from competing in UEFA competitions, and specifically the Champions League, in the coming season, it is estimated that it would cost them around €70 million (c. $76m).

“One year out of Europe for Barcelona a likely outcome”

For what it’s worth, José Miguel López Catalán, vice president of Real Betis, has expressed his concern in a recent interview that Barcelona may be punished by the UEFA with at least a one-year ban from European competitions due to the Negreira Case.

López Catalán believes that UEFA will announce its decision in June, once more information has been revealed, and considers it likely that Barcelona will be sanctioned. In the same interview the Betis VP also discussed his concerns about the current state of refereeing and the VAR system, suggesting that changes are needed to improve transparency and the appeals process.


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