Laporta: “We will defend Barça to the last drop of blood”
The Barcelona president was in defiant mood in spite of the off-field issues swirling around the La Liga club.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta called for “unity and support for all Barcelona fans” amid investigations into payments made to a former referees’ chief.
The La Liga club are on the verge of winning the Spanish title for the first time under the stewardship of Xavi Hernandez, but have been rocked by off-field issues in recent weeks. Most notably, Barcelona and Laporta are currently under investigation in relation to payments totalling more than €7 million to the former vice president of the refereeing federation, Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira.
On Friday Laporta appeared at the Congress of Andalusian, Ceuta and Melilla Supporters Clubs in Granada to assure fans that he will defend the club “to the last drop of blood” against the accusations. Addressing the club’s supporter groups Laporta described the investigations as “a demeaning campaign.”
The club have not denied that the payments took place, but insist that they did not seek favourable treatment from officials.
“They have nothing and the only thing they want is to damage our image and reputation with a demeaning campaign,” Laporta claimed. Also in attendance in Granada were club directors Antonio Escudero and Josep Ignasi Maciá and deputy president Enric Masip.
Laporta claims that accusations are a result of on-field success
Last summer Barcelona bet big to return the club to the peak of Spanish football. Laporta oversaw a period of spending that required to club to utilise a series of financial ‘levers’ to balance the books. Big money signings like Robert Lewandowski look set to bring the La Liga title to Camp Nou for the first time since 2018/19, but the Negreira allegations continue to loom over the club.
In response, Laporta claimed that the accusations are being levied at Barca by those jealous of their success.
“What they are doing is very ugly, but you don’t play with our feelings,” Laporta said. “The tactic never changes and involves trying to drown us with the clear intention of squeezing you until we give in and we are going to defend Barça to the last drop of blood.”
Last month FC Barcelona were charged with corruption by the Spanish prosecutor’s office in relation to payments made to Negreira. More recently UEFA announced a separate sporting investigation into the club’s links to Negreira.
Nevertheless Laporta insisted to fans in Granada that Barça’s reputation “doesn’t get dirty” despite “very serious attacks on our badge.”
“We have always won on the pitch thanks to the talent and commitment of the players. What they are doing is very ugly and it is not a coincidence,” he claimed. “There are 123 years of history in which we have shown values, commitment, responsibility, honesty and sportsmanship.”
The Spanish probe is solely an investigation into the club’s tax dealings, meaning that no sporting punishments can arise from it. However UEFA’s investigation could bring all sorts of sporting and financial penalties for the club and a verdict is expected to be reached before the start of next season.
If found guilty, the club would then have the right to appeal.