Sports, Europe

Barcelona charged with bribery for referee payments

Football club allegedly paid $7.7M to a top referee over nearly 2 decades

Alyssa Mcmurtry  | 28.09.2023 - Update : 29.09.2023
Barcelona charged with bribery for referee payments


A judge charged Barcelona football club and two of its former presidents with bribery on Thursday for making around €7.3 million ($7.7 million) in payments to one of the country’s top referees.

Spanish police also raided the offices of Spain’s football federation to find more evidence related to the payments to Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira.

From 1993 to 2018, Negreira was vice president of Spain’s Technical Committee of Referees, which forms part of Spain’s football federation.

Barca is accused of bribing the head of the referee body from 2001 to 2018.

The judge handling the case said it is logical to assume that the payments Barca made to Negreira “produced the arbitration effects desired by F.C. Barcelona, in such a way that there must have been inequality in the treatment of other teams and the consequent systemic corruption in Spanish arbitration as a whole.”

The judge, Joaquin Aguirre, said Thursday’s raids may help confirm the corruption.

Barca and those related to the case had already been indicted with corruption, but the charge of bribery is new.

“The crime of bribery was committed when the payment was made, whether or not the systemic corruption of Spanish arbitration is demonstrated,” said Aguirre.

Spain’s football federation is also coping with the aftermath of an international scandal triggered by its former president, Luis Rubiales, kissing a female player on the lips and refusing to apologize.

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