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Barcelona faces the possibility of being banned from the Champions League after being charged with suspected bribery by a Spanish judge, Joaquin Aguirre. The charges stem from alleged payments made to Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, the former vice-president of the Technical Committee of Referees (CTA), over a 17-year period from 2001 to 2018. The payments, totaling €7.5 million (€7.9 million), were reportedly made to companies owned by Negreira, even during the tenure of the current club president, Joan Laporta.
Both Barcelona and Laporta have vehemently denied any wrongdoing, with the club asserting that the payments were made to an external consultant who provided “technical reports related to professional refereeing,” a practice they claimed was common in professional football clubs.
Laporta, in a press conference, characterized the case as a “gigantic reputational discrediting campaign” against Barcelona, alleging “defamatory insinuations” by those who wished to harm the club’s reputation. He firmly believed that Barcelona would emerge unscathed from the allegations.
Additionally, former Barcelona presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell, along with Negreira and his son Javier Enriquez Romero, have also been charged in connection with this case.
In March, the Barcelona provincial prosecutor’s office charged Barcelona with “continued corruption between individuals in the sports field.” The prosecutors accused Rosell and Bartomeu of having a “strictly confidential verbal agreement” with Negreira to influence refereeing decisions in favor of Barcelona, potentially impacting match outcomes and competition results.
UEFA conducted its own investigation into Barcelona following these charges and, as reported by Forbes, they have examined the case closely. In July, UEFA provisionally allowed Barcelona to participate in the 2023/24 UEFA club competitions. However, UEFA reserved the right to make a future decision regarding Barcelona’s admission or exclusion from these competitions based on the ongoing investigation.
This confirmation indicates that should Barcelona be found guilty of bribery, UEFA may reconsider their decision to permit the club to participate in their competitions, including the Champions League, in the future. The fate of Barcelona in European competitions hinges on the outcome of the investigation and any subsequent findings of guilt or innocence.