UEFA has opened an inquiry into Barcelona’s bribery allegations which might result in a Champions League ban

With the revelation that the club paid millions of dollars to companies connected to a Spanish officiating official, Barcelona is now facing a fresh legal threat from UEFA, including a potential Champions League ban.

As of Thursday, UEFA has asked for their own inquiry, and Spanish prosecutors are already looking into the situation.

UEFA has opened an inquiry into Barcelona's bribery allegations which might result in a Champions League ban
Joan Laporta during the match between FC Barcelona and Getafe CF, corresponding to the week 18 of the Liga Santander, played at the Spotify Camp Nou, in Barcelona, on 22nd January 2023

From 2007, the regulatory board has had the authority to impose a one-season ban on teams from the Champions League if it discovers that they have engaged in match-fixing.

Since April 2007, Champions League rules have allowed UEFA to remove teams from the competition for one season if they were involved in match-fixing.

According to court records, Barcelona paid two businesses owned by José Maria Enriquez Negreira, DASNIL and NILSAT, 7.3 million euros (£6.4 million) between 2001 and 2018.

Negreira served as the refereeing committee’s vice president for Spanish football.

Spanish prosecutors have officially charged Barcelona with sports corruption, fraudulent management, and falsifying business records. They have indicated that they believe the club maintained a contact with the refereeing official in order to ensure that referees made “favorable rulings.”

There is currently no published proof that referees or specific games were actually impacted.

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA – JULY 18: (L-R) Abde Ezzalzouli, Marc Casado, Ronald Araujo, Pedri and Gavi of FC Barcelona interact during a training session ahead of the preseason friendly against Inter Miami CF at DRV PNK Stadium on July 18, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Barcelona has consistently denied any misconduct or conflicts of interest, claiming that while it paid for referee technical reports, it never attempted to sway their judgments during games.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo said last week that the payments were made as “an act of self-defense” by Barcelona’s former management.

During his original examination by Spain’s Inland Revenue, Negreira himself made similar assertions, claiming that his services had been hired to ensure “partial refereeing.”

Gerard Pique, a former player whose grandpa Amador Bernabeu served as the club’s vice president in the past, vehemently defended his old team and threatened to “put his hand in the fire” to disprove the allegations.

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In an interview with Catalan radio station RAC 1, he also mentioned that if the club were to purchase referees, they might “keep it off the books.”

UEFA has opened an inquiry into Barcelona's bribery allegations which might result in a Champions League ban
MUNICH, GERMANY – SEPTEMBER 12: Robert Lewandowski of FC Barcelona reacts during a FC Barcelona training session ahead of their UEFA Champions League group C match against FC Bayern München at Allianz Arena on September 12, 2022 in Munich, Germany

Any evidence of rigged games in the previous 16 years might result in Barcelona being banned from UEFA tournaments for a year and facing disciplinary action. Barcelona now leads the Spanish league by 12 points and is nearly guaranteed to make the Champions League for the upcoming season, which would bring in tens of millions of dollars for a team that saw record losses the previous campaign.

The five-time champions of UEFA’s premier competition will be hoping that such a monetary loss will prevent them from wanting to restore the dilapidated Camp Nou.

The club is proposing to borrow up to £1.3 billion to pay for the renovations, which will result in a significant loss of matchday revenue due to the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona’s significantly smaller capacity.

Barcelona has a plethora of additional financial issues that further complicate matters, such as a staggering £582 million pay bill that prevents them from bringing in new players.

UEFA has opened an inquiry into Barcelona's bribery allegations which might result in a Champions League ban
BARCELONA, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 05: Gavi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring the team’s second goal during the LaLiga Santander match between FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC at Spotify Camp Nou on February 05, 2023 in Barcelona, Spain

Gavi, a midfield prodigy, could be one victim of the issue because Barca is unable to register the new contract offered to the Golden Boy winner.The adolescent isn’t looking to leave the team, but should they fail to fix the issue, a possible new team might sign the great player for free.

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