A Spanish official has sued former referees chief Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira as the FC Barcelona corruption scandal deepens.
Enriquez Negreira, formerly vice president of the Spanish FA’s Technical Committee of Referees (CTA), received £1.2million from the Catalan giants between 2016 and 2018, allegedly for providing advice how to get better treatment from referees.
And current official Xavier Estrada Fernández has sued the 77-year-old for sporting corruption or receiving fraudulent payments in the latest twist to the high-profile affair which embroils Barcelona and its president Joan Laporta.
The lawsuit was presented in the courts in Barcelona on Friday and alleges that Enriquez Negreira provided advice and services ‘with the aim of securing refereeing decisions favourable to the interests of FC Barcelona’ while he was CTA vice-president, in different seasons from 2003 to 2018.
The document shows he was paid around £1.2m by Barcelona via his company DASNIL 95 SL between 2016 and 2018, meaning he was on the payroll of one of the clubs while carrying out a supposedly neutral role for the governing body.
Spanish official Xavier Estrada Fernández (pictured working as a referee in 2020, left) has sued former referees chief Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira as Barcelona’s corruption scandal deepens
Fernández has sued Enriquez Negreira, 77, after he received £1.2m from the club between 2016 and 2018, allegedly for providing advice how to get better treatment from referees
It is the latest twist to the high-profile affair embroiling Barcelona and president Joan Laporta
Estrada’s case is also brought against Enriquez Negreira’s son Javier Enríquez Romero, who managed the company and who provided ‘coaching’ services to active referees when taking them from their hotel to the stadium.
Estrada previously worked as a referee in LaLiga, Spanish football’s top flight, but has worked as a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) since the 2021-2022 season.
Enriquez Negreira has denied ever favouring Barcelona with refereeing decisions, while the club have admitted hiring an ‘external consultant’ who provided reports on ‘professional refereeing’.
Spanish outlet El Pais report that his company sent Barcelona a written report and DVD with video analysis discussing the profile of their upcoming referee before every LaLiga and Copa del Rey game.
LaLiga said on Friday it cannot investigate cases from more than three years ago, seemingly ruling out punishments like Barcelona being docked points or titles being removed.
But prosecutors’ investigations are ongoing and criminal charges may be brought. On Thursday, newspaper El Mundo presented documents which said Barca had paid DASNIL 95 SL more than £5.8m from 2001.
El Mundo also revealed a burofax Enriquez Negreira sent to the club in 2018 after Barcelona halted payments, in which he said he would bring about a ‘scandal’ by ‘revealing with no hesitation all the irregularities from the club I’ve lived through first-hand’, unless payments began again.
He added: ‘I have the firm intention to sue the club, which would bring negative consequences for FC Barcelona.’
Laporta (second right) was urged to resign by LaLiga chief Javier Tebas if he does not ‘justify properly’ what happened, before he hit back, accusing Tebas of having an anti-Barcelona bias
Xavi’s Catalan giants exited the Europa League on Thursday after a 2-1 loss against Man United
Atletico Bilbao boss Ernesto Valverde, who managed Barcelona from 2017 to 2020, said on Saturday: ‘It’s been a bit of a surprise for me.
‘During my time in Barcelona, I didn’t look at them (the payments), and actually didn’t even know they existed.
‘It’s something common: here, at Bilbao, we have our reports about the referees that we are going to have on the next game. I imagine the story will get clearer with time. We don’t have the full picture so I prefer to remain cautious about that.’
Enriquez Negreira started working as a top-flight referee in 1979 and rose up the ranks to become CTA vice-president by 1994.
He told Spanish tax authorities last week Barcelona paid him ‘to make sure no refereeing decisions were made against them, which is to say, for everything to be neutral’.
On Monday, LaLiga chief Javier Tebas said: ‘If he (Laporta) does not justify properly or in a more reasonable way what has occurred, I believe he should resign.
‘Some of the comments they have made as a club have been very superficial. This is inflicting great damage on professional football. We want the prosecutor’s office to raise charges and investigate until the end.’
Laporta responded: ‘We had been advised that Tebas was promoting a campaign against Barcelona and myself as a president. Now he’s shown his true colours. He is obsessed with Barca and has some sort of phobia with our club.
‘He can’t forgive us for rejecting his CVC deal. He can’t deal either with the fact we are backing the Super League. His aim is to control Barcelona from a distance, but he can’t do that with me in charge.’
Barcelona, for their part, claim they have launched their own probe into the matter.