UEFA chief Ceferin sends warning to Barcelona over corruption scandal

‘It is one of the most SERIOUS in football that I have seen’: UEFA chief Aleksander Ceferin sends warning to Barcelona over corruption scandal that saw them  charged over payment to former vice-president of Spain’s referees’ committee

  • The UEFA president was quizzed on the latest on the case involving Barcelona
  • He was reluctant to expand on it but underlined the ‘seriousness’ of the case
  • Barcelona have consistently denied any wrongdoing as they are investigated

The corruption case against Barcelona ‘is one of the most serious in football that I have seen,’ according to UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin. 

Ceferin was reluctant to expand on his comments in a sit-down interview with Slovenian newspaper Ekipa, but warned the seriousness of the charges are potentially unprecedented in his experience. 

Barcelona have been charged with corruption over payments made by the club to the then vice-president of the Spanish referees’ committee, and UEFA requested last month to conduct their own investigation, as well as Spain’s prosecutor’s office. 

‘I have been informed and the situation is extremely serious. It is so serious that, in my opinion, it is one of the most serious in football that I have seen,’ Ceferin told Ekipa

Spain’s public prosecutor has accused the club of maintaining a relationship with Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira in which ‘in exchange for money’ he carried out actions that would ‘lead to Barcelona being favoured in the decision making of the referees’.

Aleksander Ceferin, president of UEFA, addressed the charges of corruption against Barcelona

 Barcelona president Joan Laporta has continued to deny wrongdoing as courts investigate

The prosecution says €7.3million (£6.46m) was paid by the club to DASNIL and NILSAT, two companies owned by Negreira. 

‘I cannot comment directly on this for two reasons,’ Ceferin added. 

‘Firstly, because we have an independent disciplinary committee in charge of it. And secondly, because I have not dealt with this matter in detail.

‘At the level of the Spanish League, the matter is prescribed and cannot have competitive consequences. The proceedings are ongoing at the level of the Spanish civil prosecutor’s office. But as far as UEFA is concerned, there is nothing time-barred.’

The controversy first hit Barcelona last month when an investigation into a firm owned by Negreira revealed a £1.2m payment from the club, during a two-year period until 2018 for ‘technical advice on referees’.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo subsequently reported that payments from Barcelona to Negreira’s company date back to 2001, a period of time that includes Joan Laporta’s first spell as club president. He will now have to give evidence to investigators.

At the time Barcelona issued a statement admitting to having contracted the services of an ‘external’ consultant who provided reports ‘related to professional refereeing in order to complement information required by the coaching staff’, something that it said was ‘common practice in professional football clubs’.

Later El Mundo revealed that when Barcelona stopped paying Enriquez Negreira, lawyers faxed them referencing a relationship that had ‘lasted so many years with so many favours rendered and so many confidences shared’.

Barcelona have been charged with corruption over payments to a former referees’ official

Laporta was asked about the scandal at the start of March and said: ‘Barca has never bought referees and Barca has never had any intention of buying referees. Absolutely never. 

‘The forcefulness of the facts contradicts those who try to change the story.’

No evidence has yet been published that referees or individual games were actually influenced.

Barcelona has consistently denied any wrongdoing or conflict of interest, saying it paid for technical reports on referees but never tried to influence their decisions in games.

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