Prosecutors are currently investigating payments from Barcelona to a company owned by a former Spanish referee. The payments apparently totaled nearly $1.5 million over a three-year span.

Reports have surfaced that the Catalan club made payments to a company run by José María Enríquez Negreira from 2016 to 2018. Negreira was previously the vice president of the Referees Committee in Spain. According to El Pais, this company delivered weekly envelopes ahead of domestic Barca matches. These envelopes supposedly contained both written information and a DVD about the referee in charge of each game.

Although he was previously a LaLiga referee, Negreira has been retired from the job for quite some time. The former ref worked the Spanish top flight from 1977 up until 1992.

Former referee, Barcelona team president confirm payments

Negreira has confirmed that the relationship between the two parties existed, however, he claimed that he gave “verbal” advice. The former ref says that Barca hired him to “ensure that no controversial refereeing decisions went against them.”

Former Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu has told Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo that these payments went back at least 20 years. He claimed that payments to Negreira’s company totaled about $614,000 per year beginning from 2009. The funds were, however, cut off in 2018 according to Bartomeu.

Barca claim relationship is ‘common practice’ among clubs

Barcelona also issued a statement on the ordeal as well. The club admitted to the relationship, but stated that it was routine practice among professional soccer teams.

“In the past FC Barcelona hired the services of an external consultant that supplied the club’s technical secretaries with reports in video format of youth players from other clubs in Spain,” read the statement.

“Additionally, the relationship with that supplier extended to technical reports related to professional refereeing in order to complement the information requested by the first and second team coaching staff. This a common practice among professional football clubs.”

The current LaLiga leaders also stated that they will pursue legal actions against those “who are trying to tarnish the club’s image.”

The Royal Spanish Football Federation, Spain’s governing body of the sport, is currently investigating the matter. AS is reporting though that it seems unlikely that Barca will be receiving punishment for the alleged payments. There must be clear, concrete evidence that some form of match fixing took place.