Spanish soccer club Barcelona are under investigation for suspected “active bribery” as part of a probe into suspected corruption spanning two decades at the refereeing committee, according to a court document seen by Reuters on Thursday.
Police also searched the offices of the Spanish Refereeing Committee (CTA) inside the Football Federation (RFEF) headquarters in Madrid on Thursday, the Barcelona court said, as part of the ongoing inquiry into “possible systemic corruption” within the CTA.
In March, prosecutors filed a complaint over alleged payments of more than 7.3 million euros ($7.8 million) over 17 years to firms owned by Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, who was vice-president of the RFEF’s refereeing committee from 1993 to 2018.
Current Barca head coach Xavi fielded questions about the issue during a press conference on Thursday. The former star midfielder doubled down on his team’s insistence of innocence. “You know my opinion,” Xavi told reporters. “I have never had the feeling that the club have benefitted from refereeing. Never.”
“I don’t have time to reflect on much more than that. I’m focused on sporting issues. Next week there will be another Negreira story, in 15 days another, and then more a month.”
La Liga champions Barcelona have denied any wrongdoing, saying in a statement in February that the club had paid an external consultant who supplied it with “technical reports related to professional refereeing”, which it said was a common practice among professional football clubs.