Spanish prosecutors probe Barca’s payments to former refereeing official

 Spanish prosecutors are inves­tigating around 1.4 million eu­ros ($1.50 million) in payments soccer giants Barcelona had made over three years to a company owned by a high-ranking official of Spain’s referee­ing body, the club said, confirming an earlier media report.

Spanish radio Cadena SER said, on Wednesday that the soccer club made the payments between 2016 and 2018 to a company of Jose Maria Enríquez Negreira, who was at the time vice-pres­ident of a refereeing committee of the Spanish football association.

Barcelona said in a statement it was aware of the investigation. It said the club had “hired the services of an external consultant” that supplied it with “technical reports related to professional refereeing”, calling it, “a common prac­tice among professional football clubs.”

It said, the consultant also provided, in video format, reports about youth players from other Spanish clubs.

However, former club president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, told Mundo Deportivo sports daily later on Wednesday the payments went back before 2003 and totalled 575 000 euros per year since the 2009/2010 season before they got stopped in 2018 as part of cost-cutting measures.

Asked about his remarks, Barcelona offered no further comment, referring to its original statement.

The Technical Committee of Referees (CTA) said, in a statement that Enriquez Negreira has had no official role since 2018 and that “no active referee or member of the CTA bodies can carry out any work that is likely to enter into a conflict of interest.”

According to Spanish media reports, prosecutors launched the probe in 2022 after a tax office inspection of a company owned by Enriquez Negreira, found no record or services provided to Barcelona in return for 1.4 million euros in payments.

Cadena SER, quoted, Enriquez Ne­greira as saying that his advice was verbal and included players’ interactions with referees and that he denied ever favour­ing Barcelona in any refereeing decisions or disputes— Reuters

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