As Barcelona continues to battle through legal issues with its referee payment scandal, there could be a ban on the cards in the UEFA Champions League. The current LaLiga leaders could face a one-season suspension in European competition.

According to UEFA rules, any team associated with match fixing is subject to a ban. Barcelona’s millions of euros paid to former vice president of the Spanish referee association Jose Mara Enriquez Negreira opened up an investigation from UEFA.

Court documents show Barcelona paid the former referee around $7.5 million over a 17-year span. Barcelona alleges this is common practice. The club says it received technical reports on referees, and that actual refereeing impacts and changes to officiating in games did not happen. Spanish officials are still investigating, but there has been no evidence uncovered on actual match fixing as of late March.

Now, with UEFA opening up its own investigation, the potential consequences now stretch through Europe. Barcelona is almost assuredly qualifying for the Champions League next season. The club has a 12-point gap at the top of the LaLiga table. However, if evidence supporting match fixing does come out, UEFA punishments could rule out that Champions League berth.

Barcelona Champions League ban exacerbates issues

Barcelona’s performances in Spain have been exceptional this season. While many other clubs’ supporters lament any referee decision that goes Barcelona’s way, the club raced away in the league, winning the Supercopa de España on the way. The club also holds a 1-0 aggregate lead in the Copa del Rey semifinals against Real Madrid.

However, it is a different story in Europe. After a disastrous Champions League group stage campaign, Manchester United dispatched Barcelona in the Europa League playoff round. That is where Barcelona needs to be.

The financial issues are still hitting the club. It impacts any transfer moves the club may want to make, which is already rationed because of the massive updates to Camp Nou that are currently underway.

If this one-year ban comes to fruition, the economic struggles of the club would worsen more than they already have.