Loading player The Barcelona football team, once among the richest and most successful in the world, has been in a very difficult economic situation for some years and operates in a condition of perennial risk. To try to put his accounts in order and deal with a total debt of 1 billion and 150 million euros, he has embarked on a major recovery plan that will need years and above all results. For all these reasons, the attention and controls of the authorities on the Catalan team are particularly stringent. Recently, in one of these checks, the Spanish Revenue Agency noticed a series of apparently unjustified payments between 300,000 and 500,000 euros to a company attributable to José María Enríquez Negreira, former arbitrator and long-time vice president of the association Spanish referee. The taxman then reported these payments to the authorities, who launched an investigation into corruption due to the lack of justifications. It has also been discovered that, in addition to the payments of around one and a half million euros made between 2016 and 2018, Barcelona has paid Negreira a good 7 million euros in the last twenty years. The news of the payments alone has inevitably generated huge controversy in Spain, especially after the admission of Barcelona (which is first in the league with a discrete advantage). Indeed, President Joan Laporta confirmed the existence of these payments as part of what he described as a normal working relationship. In fact, during this period, Negreira would have worked as a consultant to the club on refereeing matters. However, many things still remain to be clarified. First of all, neither Barcelona nor Negreira seem to be able to prove this working relationship with any kind of material. The former arbitrator claims that it was a “verbal consultation” and therefore this material requested by the investigators cannot exist. Barcelona defends itself by saying that figures like Negreira can be found in any other professional club, which is indeed true. However, the fees are excessively high for this type of consultancy, and Negreira would have worked for Barcelona while he had an active, and of a certain importance, role in the Spanish refereeing association, of which he was vice president from 1994 to 2018. The regulation of the association does not expressly prohibit it, but it goes against the code of conduct that all its members should follow. Moreover, for all this time, Negreira did not even appear among the collaborators of Barcelona. The former vice president of Spanish referees would therefore have worked for Barcelona under four different presidencies, starting with that of Joan Gaspart, and then with Joan Laporta, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu. It was only the latter, in 2018, who interrupted the payments, both due to the economic situation of the club, which was already starting to worry, and because that year Negreira left his position in the referees’ association. Sid Lowe, Spain correspondent for the Guardian, said that when Barcelona stopped paying him, Negreira told President Bartomeu that he considered it an insult to him and hinted that there could be consequences. He also asked for 200,000 euros in back payments. “These things can’t happen,” said La Liga president Javier Tebas. Now, however, it remains to be ascertained whether the relationship between Barcelona and Negreira is subject to sanctions, and if so to whom. Barcelona claim it is not, but meanwhile the effects of these revelations are certainly not helping a club already in trouble. Several teams in the Spanish league are protesting and calling for immediate action “to address a scandal that threatens the reputation of football”. – Read also: Should the Kings League be taken seriously?