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Judge in Negreira case acknowledges systemic corruption of referees and believes Real Madrid could have been harmed

Joan Laporta Press Conference About Negreira Case Photo by Marc Graupera Alomá / AFP7 via Getty Images

The judge in the Negreira case has stated that the evidence gathered in the investigation of the case, which involves payments of millions of euros by FC Barcelona to the former vice-president of the Technical Committee of Referees (CTA), José María Enríquez Negreira, reveals a “systemic corruption” in the refereeing of Spanish soccer that favored the Catalan club. The judge also said that Real Madrid and any other team that competed with FC Barcelona during the years under investigation could consider themselves “harmed by the alleged plot” if the corruption is proven.

The Negreira case was initially set off by a probe by the Spanish Tax Agency into the payments made by FC Barcelona to Enríquez Negreira and companies linked to him between 2001 and 2018. The payments were allegedly made for consulting services, but the prosecution suspects that they were intended to influence the refereeing decisions in favor of FC Barcelona.

According to El Confidencial, the magistrate in charge of the case, Joaquín Aguirre López, has rejected an appeal filed by the former president of FC Barcelona, Josep María Bartomeu, against Real Madrid’s appearance as a plaintiff. The judge argues that it is a “logical possibility” that FC Barcelona’s payments to Enríquez Negreira sought to “benefit from certain decision-making within the refereeing collective, which would have necessarily been to the detriment of the other teams.”

The judge also points out that Enríquez Negreira was one of the three vice-presidents of the CTA, a body that was responsible for appointing the referees for the First Division matches, as well as for evaluating and promoting or relegating them between the different categories of professional soccer. The judge considers that Enríquez Negreira used his position in the CTA to favor the assignment of “like-minded” referees to officiate “relevant Liga or [Spanish] cup matches and international matches,” and even to ensure that they remained in the “highest category of the profession,” thus increasing their income considerably.

The judge calls this “a novel way” of buying the favor of referees, far from “the traditional method of payment for a specific match.” He also states that “it is presumed by pure logic that FC Barcelona would not pay vice-president Negreira around €7 million since 2001 if it did not benefit them.”

The judge’s resolution opens the door for “any team of the First Division that has coincided with FC Barcelona during the years under investigation” to pursue a private prosecution, as Real Madrid has already done. The case is still under investigation and no formal charges have been filed yet.

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