Sports lawyer Toni Roca explains what the UEFA investigation into FC Barcelona and the Negreira case means
The lawyer spoke to AS about the case and the significance of UEFA opening a formal investigation on the matter.
Sports lawyer Toni Roca sat down with Diario AS to explain the importance of the UEFA investigation into FC Barcelona and the Negreira case, as well as potential punishments the club could receive if found guilty.
What does it mean to say that UEFA have opened investigations into Barça and the Negreira case?
It means that from the fact that the RFEF (Spanish Football Federation) reported FC Barcelona, and having seen what has happened, from the brief of the Prosecutor’s Office, they understand that there are motives to open an investigation.
Now they must see if Barça’s actions go against their rules: point 4 to be exact, that establishes a criteria that no club must take part in acts that manipulate the result of a game at either national or international level.
If UEFA decide that this is the case, they could kick Barça out of the Champions League.
Is it possible to kick FC Barcelona out of the Champions League?
In order to play in the Champions League, you have to fulfil a certain number of sporting requirements; in the case of Spain, you have to finish in the top four positions of LaLiga. But you must also fulfil a number of non-sporting requirements: comply with Financial Fair Play, have an infrastructure (an up-to-date stadium, for example), have certain members of staff, etc.
At the end of the day it’s UEFA who invite you to play in their competition. If you don’t fulfil the requirements as you fixed games, UEFA can just tell you ‘it’s really nice that you won the league, but you’re not playing in the Champions League because you didn’t follow my rules’.
If Barça are charged, what type of punishment could they receive?
If it is shown that Barça tried to buy or condition referees, a year without the Champions League would not be enough. I think they would get off lightly there. We are talking about a scandal. It’s very serious.
Has the investigation opened because there are indications of that?
The investigation is open because the club has been reported. The inspectors will analyse to see if there is truth in it and when they do, they will open the case. If there is a false reporting of the club, then they automatically don’t open the case. But having seen what is happening in Spain and that the RFEF have appeared, UEFA can’t turn a blind eye.
How long could this take?
The procedures in normal justice are very long, but in sport they are much shorter. It goes from years in a normal court to months in sport. I don’t know if the decision will come before next season. I think so because there is time.
Can Barça appeal?
UEFA’s decision will always be up for appeal by Barça and by CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport). The club would ask for a suspension. That could dilute it, but not by much: six months, at most, and maybe less. CAS could open a fast-track process.
That would mean that if in June or July there is a verdict from UEFA and Barça ask for a suspension, the parties could ask for a fast-track process from CAS so that the final decision could be made before the Champions League draw.
If this were the case, perhaps we would get a solution before August. And if Barça requested a suspension but they did it late or it got delayed, they could play in the upcoming Champions League, but not the one after. The timing is essential. It’s one scenario or another, depending on when there is a UEFA decision.
What do the precedents suggest?
There is a lot of evidence, but no proof. If you can’t prove anything, you can’t punish. Anyone who thinks that’s strange hasn’t had things explained well enough. To go from having evidence to affirming that referees have been manipulated is a big leap. That’'s the heart of the issue and will be what unblocks everything from a sporting and judicial point of view.
The quantity of evidence is not relevant. There is evidence. If Negreira had said Barça had paid him to have neutral referees, then that’s a crime. Although they weren’t bought as such, they’re still conditioned. Everyone thinks there’s something strange, but you have to prove it. Without proof, you can’t charge anyone.