Sadly, football is no stranger to scandal, and right now Barcelona are caught up in one that could have major ramifications in La Liga.
The Negreira case is similar to the Calciopoli scandal that rocked Italian football nearly 20 years ago, with allegations of referee manipulation, large sums of money and mysterious envelopes all involved.
It’s a complicated affair, but let’s take a closer look at it and some of the key figures involved.
For now at least, the Negreira case is about Barcelona paying for their players to be briefed on how to deal with individual referees.
It is alleged that between 2016 and 2018, Barcelona paid Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira to tell their players how to behave with each individual referee to give them the best chance of favourable treatment.
While it initially appears more about referee manipulation rather than bribery, the kicker is that, at the time, Negreira was also the vice-president of the Spanish football federation’s Referee Technical Committee, the CTA.
That has obviously thrown fresh suspicion on the case as it means a key La Liga refereeing figure was on the direct payroll of one of the clubs.
Negreira was one of the most well-known referees in Spain, with his heyday coming in the 1980s.
He hung up his whistle in 1992 and two years later was appointed the vice-president of the CTA, holding that position until 2018. That was not his only interest though.
Around the same time he founded his own business, DASNIL 95 SL, which was a wholly innocent company that traded wholesale foods.
That apparently didn’t work out, though, and in 2000 the company pivoted to providing “advertising services for companies, promotions, and gift items, printing texts and making sports videos for marketing.”
Negreira appointed his son, Javier Enriquez Romero, as the sole administrator of the business in 2004 before he left un February 2019.
According to El Pais, DASNIL 95 SL delivered an envelope to the Barcelona office every time the club played a La Liga or Copa del Rey game.
The envelope contained a written report and a DVD containing a video analysis and profile detailing the on-pitch behaviour of their upcoming referee.
Negreira has claimed he was paid for ‘technical advice to ensure that no controversial refereeing decisions went against Barcelona.’ He cost was €500,000 per season and around €1.4m in total.
It is important to note that Negreira denies that there was ‘an envelope’ and instead says his technical advice was all verbal – a claim his own son denies.
Josep Maria Bartomeu is coming under heavy scrutiny because he was the Barcelona president in the 2016-2018 window that is being investigated.
However, while the prosecutor’s office are analysing payments that correspond to his time in charge of Barcelona, it is believed that could just be the tip of the iceberg.
Reports in Spain claim the relationship between DASNIL and Barcelona go back two decades which also cover the presidencies of Joan Gaspart, Joan Laporta and Sandro Rosell.
What is really interesting about this case is that Javier Enriquez Romero is denying his own father’s version of events.
Enriquez Jr. has testified that the ‘envelope’ was the way in which the consultancy was delivered, not verbally as his father claims.
He is also the man who, according two members of Bartomeu’s team, the club dealt with directly. That is likely to put raise further questions about what the ‘verbal consultancy’ Negreira actually covered.
Barça have addressed the issue on their own media channels and have called for calm, saying they will conduct their own investigation.
They have also promised transparency in their findings.
“I have to tell the members, first of all, to be very calm,” Rafael Yuste, the club’s vice-president, told BarçaTV.
“Through the compliance department, the matter will be made as transparent as possible. The club has commissioned a law firm to handle, study and clarify all the responsibilities that may arise from this affair.
“The club will have the transparency that the club needs to save its honour because there is too much noise and it doesn’t suit anyone.”
That has done little to appease the rest of the La Liga clubs. They released a joint statement expressing their concerns, although Real Madrid and Valencia opted to distance themselves from it.
The statement read: “The Delegated Commission of La Liga met today (made up of Atletico de Madrid, Levante UD, Sevilla FC, Real Betis, Real Sociedad, Cadiz CF, Getafe CF, Villarreal CF, CD Tenerife, Deportivo Alaves, SD Eibar, UD Las Palmas, CD Lugo and SD Huesca) and after taking stock of everything that happened in the Division Boards, as well as the information published in the media, this Delegate Commission wishes to state:
“La Liga has exposed to all the members of the Delegate Commission the different actions that it has carried out and is carrying out, among which are included: a letter to the Prosecutor’s Office as announced yesterday by the president; communications with the data and information that La Liga considers pertinent to different organisations, Spanish and European; and more actions that at this time La Liga considers that it should not make public so as not to harm the investigation.
“Yesterday, during the Division Meeting, most of the La Liga Clubs expressed their deep concern about this case, which they consider to be of the utmost seriousness, for which the proposal for a joint communication received the unanimous support of all the clubs. from La Liga SmartBank and all the La Liga Santander clubs except for two, who objected to this joint statement for different reasons.
“La Liga and its Delegate Commission reject and repudiate the facts, and are deeply concerned and actively working to clarify any irregularities that may have occurred around the Negreira case, whether sporting or of any other nature.
“La Liga is following this matter very closely and will act firmly within the powers and limits allowed by the Law.
“The Delegated Commission firmly supports the actions of La Liga in response to the work demonstrated and carried out during these years to preserve the integrity of the competition.”
Meanwhile, the CTA have released their own statement distancing themselves from Negreira personally and promising co-operation with all investigations.
“The CTA wishes to make clear that Mr. Enriquez Negreira is not part of any federal body since the change in government that occurred after the 2018 elections,” the statement said.
“The CTA is available to justice authorities to offer its maximum co-operation for any type of information that this Committee can provide.”
It’s still very early to be talking about guilt, let alone punishments. A lengthy and thorough investigation will now be done to determine what, If anything, Barça have done wrong.
It’s also important to note that Barcelona are not currently being investigated – DASNIL are.
Should Barça be implicated in that investigation, though, the punishments could be severe.
Italian giants Juventus were relegated and stripped of titles after their involvement in a referee scandal came to light in the Calciopoli affair, and it’s far from inconceivable that Barcelona could face similar should any guilt be proven.
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