Prosecutors are seeking corruption charges against Barcelona and their former president Josep Maria Bartomeu following the unearthing of payments to the former vice president of the refereeing committee, judicial sources have confirmed to Spanish news agency EFE.
Until now, former referee Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira had been the sole focus of the investigation for payments worth €1.4 million received from Barca between 2016 and 2018.
However, Barca and Bartomeu will now also be probed as defendants in the case and could face legal action for the money paid to Negreira’s company, Dasnil 95 SL.
Former Barca presidents Joan Gaspart and Sandro Rosell, along with president Joan Laporta — due to his first spell in charge of the Catalan club between 2003 and 2010 — will also be summoned as witnesses.
They can no longer face charges, though, due to the statute of limitations in place for such crimes.
Speaking this week, Laporta, who has previously said the payments were for “technical reports on referees and refereeing,” denied that Barca had ever bought match officials.
“Barca have never bought referees nor influence,” Laporta said on Tuesday. “That was never the intention and that has to be clear. The facts contradict those that are trying to tell a different story.”
Barca paid Negreira around €7m in total between 2001 and 2018 — a period that spanned four presidents — before Bartomeu cut off the payments five years ago.
It is the payments made between 2016 and 2018 that sparked the investigation after they were flagged by the tax office.
LaLiga chief Javier Tebas has said Barca cannot face any sporting sanctions in Spain because over three years has passed, but he promised to revisit the case once the legal proceedings have reached a conclusion.
UEFA and FIFA could take action, though, and the Royal Spanish Football Federation revealed last week that UEFA had requested all information and documents related to the investigation to be sent to them.
Meanwhile, Barca head coach Xavi Hernandez has said that some of the worst moments of his life have been since he accepted the top job at Camp Nou.
Xavi replaced Ronald Koeman in 2021 and, despite leading the club into the Champions League last season, winning the Spanish Super Cup in January and building a nine-point lead in LaLiga, said he is often criticised.
“I am constantly judged,” Xavi said at an event on Tuesday. “It’s tough because I have a family and young children. There are many moments in which it doesn’t pay to be the Barca coach — especially if you’re a fan like me.
“It’s really hard when they say you are no good or you don’t have any character. Sometimes you don’t see it and a friend calls up to tell you you’re being killed.
“The worst days of my life have been as coach of Barca. I have wondered if it is worth it. I don’t need money … but I am a Barca fan, this is my club and I want to help.”