Barcelona could be eliminated from the Champions League after the La Liga champions were accused of bribing Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, a former vice-president of the Technical Committee of Referees (CTA).
According to El Debate, this latest development could ultimately lead to Barcelona being disqualified from the Champions League, if UEFA sees appropriate.
The Catalan club is believed to have paid Negreira-owned businesses $7.9 million in the period 2001 to 2018, this includes Joan Laporta’s first term as club president. But Laporta has repeatedly stated that the payments were legitimate compensation for consultation work.
The Barcelona provincial prosecutor’s office charged the Catalans with “continued corruption between individuals in the sports field” in March, prompting UEFA to launch its own investigation.
That charge has since been changed to bribery, as the judge believes that the crime of bribery fits the case better because Negreira “participated in the exercise of public functions” while receiving payments from Barcelona, which then stopped when he left.
Barcelona’s latest concern is that the judge has noted in a court order that, in a hypothetical trial, it would not even be necessary to show that Barça “adulterated” competitions in Spain.
This is because the crime of bribery is already complete when an official is paid to do a favour, regardless of whether the favour is actually performed or not.
The Catalan club will go through a trial to demonstrate their innocence, but this most recent development may prompt UEFA to ban them from European competitions, which would be financially disastrous for Laporta and his board.