FC Barcelona is being investigated for alleged payments

What FC Barcelona will tell you is that their comfortable lead over La Liga at the moment (nine points) suggests they have recovered her years in financial hell. That all the levers they pulled (and the symbolism of Barca constantly talking about pulling their levers is hard to miss) paid off and they’re not just back where they used to live, under the Elite but also where they used to reign and get the top pick on the spread.

These days they’ll be screaming it louder, which actually suggests how much trouble they could have. From today, A Spanish judge agreed to investigate the club essentially for bribing referees. Anyone else in Spain who’s been wondering for a decade or more how Barca kept getting the reputation they needed, a lawsuit by the entire proletariat against every superpower in football, might soon have their answer.

It’s not quite that simple, and yet it doesn’t seem that far away from it. Let’s keep digging. Spanish prosecutors have accused Barca, and in particular their two previous presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, of corruption because the club, under their management, made payments to a company owned by a man named Enriquez Negreira, who happened to be the vice-president of Spain’s referees’ committee at the time. If it sounds lazy, that’s because it’s damn lazy.

What you say

Both Barca and Negreira claim that the payments were only for reports on referees and how players should behave or play when certain referees edited their games. Which feels like one of the weakest defenses of all time. Barca will say and have said that it’s not much different than receiving scouting reports about an upcoming opponent. Unless they do, clubs typically do not pay people who are employed and part of the hierarchy to run the club they will be playing at. You wouldn’t see Brian Cashman asking the Rays Deputy GM for reports on the Rays roster, you wouldn’t think.

If only Barca had hired their own scouts to provide reports on referees and how they managed games, fine. That’s something different and it doesn’t seem like Barca or Negreira are trying to claim much more. And it’s not a huge step to go from just receiving scouting reports to having those payments at least affect which referees have played Barca games and which haven’t, or worse. Again, Negreira was Vice President of the Reffing Committee at the time.

What’s next?

What could happen to Barca is more hazy. La Liga has a statute of limitations on things like this and since payments stopped in 2018 (and thus more than three years ago), the league has said there is nothing they can do about it. However, the Spanish FA are closely watching how the court case unfolds, although it is unlikely the federation will step on the league’s toe any kind of punishment. All the madristas out there hoping that every single Barca title of the last 20 years will have to be vacated are probably pissing the wind. UEFA is also on standby. Bartomeu and Rosell can only be punished individually, and that could be the magnitude of the penalty anyone linked with Barcelona could face. Former coaches or sources close to them such as Pep Guardiola and Ernesto Valverde, said they knew nothing about these reports.

Barcelona really have to worry about this UEFA part. UEFA no longer has a time limit for such things (Thank you Man City), and if UEFA were interested, they could cut off the Champions League money spigot that Barca so desperately need to get out of the financial hell prison they’ve put themselves in. Barca might get $61m for winning La Liga, but they would only get $7m less for second place or about $15m less for third place. Their whole plan, with the levers and signings and Hail Marys, was based on a deep run in the Champions League. That didn’t work out this season (funnily enough), but what we do know about the club’s “planning” is that next season they’ll earn more dollars, or e.g., with a run to the KUros in this case. But we are still a long way from that, as this has to go through the Spanish courts first.

Gavi barred by judge

The is not her only problem this week, because when Barcelona set their face on fire, they never skimp on kerosene. The contract of one of their midfield fulcrums, Gavi, was rejected by a judge this week because Barca simply don’t have room in the enforced spending limit to accommodate him. Or, more importantly, they filed the paperwork for his registration a day late. Gavi can still finish this season with the team as he is still under a youth contract promoted through the Barcelona system. But without dissolution, he can leave the club free of charge in the summer.

And he might have to, unless Barcelona once again get extremely creative/shady to bend and stretch and undermine his salary caps. That says LaLiga President Javier Tebas still have to cut 200 million euros off her payroll for next season. Barca obviously think differently. It will be the same rigamarole next summer as last.

It will definitely never be boring with the Catalans. But we’ve passed the point where it feels like it’s gone beyond something they can work their way out of. Whatever happens to the Ref case, that stink is hanging on them now whether they want it or not. The name “FC Barcelona” still draws a lot of water and is still the Mecca for most players in the world. But how long will that last if they keep falling into their own septic tank?

If you want to watch Sam convince himself Liverpool can beat Madrid 4-0 in Madrid and then set himself on fire, follow him on Twitter @Felsgate.

https://deadspin.com/fc-barcelona-la-liga-soccer-uefa-investigation-spain-1850230086 FC Barcelona is being investigated for alleged payments

Ian Walker

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