UEFA, the governing body of European football, confirmed on Thursday that they are to investigate payment made by FC Barcelona to a former vice-president of the Spanish referees' technical committee.
Barca are alleged to have paid around 7.5 million euros to a company owned by Jose Maria Negreira between 2001 and 2018, while Negreira was vice president of the committee. This committee oversees the performances of referees in Spain.
UEFA explained on Thursday that they would be looking at the case, saying "ethics and disciplinary inspectors have been appointed to conduct an investigation regarding a potential violation of UEFA's legal framework by FC Barcelona in connection with the so-called 'Caso Negreira'."
Prosecutors in Spain last week indicted the club and former presidents, Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell for "corruption," "breach of trust" and "false business records," over the affair, while the club insists the payments were made for technical reports in referees and scouting of young players. reports Xinhua.
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"FC Barcelona obtained and maintained a strictly confidential verbal agreement with Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira so that, in his capacity as vice-president of the technical arbitral committee (CTA) and in exchange for money, the latter carries out actions tending to benefit FC Barcelona in decisions by the referees," argued the prosecutors in their presentation of their case against the club.
It is so far uncertain what punishment Barca could face if found guilty, but UEFA regulations do allow for a club that is "directly or indirectly" involved in an activity that could "influence" the result of a game, to be excluded from European competition, which would be a huge blow to Barcelona's fragile economic situation.