The governing body of European football, UEFA, announced on Thursday that it was looking into allegations that Barcelona bought favorable refereeing decisions.
In reference to the alleged “Caso Negreira,” or former head of the Spanish league’s refereeing staff, Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, UEFA said that its ethics and disciplinary inspectors will look into “a potential infringement of UEFA’s regulatory framework by FC Barcelona.”
Barcelona has already been accused of corruption by Spanish prosecutors for payments made to a business owned by Negreira between 2001 and 2018 that totaled about 7.3 million euros ($7.95 million).
The club claims they were paying for reports and refereeing guidance, but prosecutors have charged the club with trying to influence officials’ decisions in its favor.
Charges against the team, Negreira, and two former Barcelona presidents, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, among others, were brought earlier this month.
Negreira, a former referee, was the vice president of the refereeing committee of the Spanish football federation between 1994 and 2018.
The investigation was launched after the tax authorities in Spain discovered discrepancies in the tax payments made between 2016 and 2018 by Negreira’s company Dasnil 95.
Dasnil 95 apparently got payments from Barcelona between those years.
The last invoice was issued in June 2018. After that the refereeing committee was restructured and Negreira left the organisation.
“Let it be clear Barca have never bought referees and Barca have never had the intention of buying referees, absolutely never,” he said.
Barcelona was not in immediate danger, according to La Liga president Javier Tebas, given the five-year statutes of limitations for all football-related lawsuits in Spain, Europe, and the rest of the world.
On the criminal level, the accused could face up to four years in prison.
Real Madrid’s president Florentino Perez skipped last weekend’s Clasico, which the Catalans won, due to tensions between Barcelona and their longtime rivals as a result of the case.
Real Madrid have confirmed they will appear in the case as a “injured party” to defend their interests.
Relations between the two competing clubs seemed to be improving of late, as they looked to establish a European Super League initiative jointly in 2021 and remain focused on the idea.