UEFA to investigate Barcelona over referee payments – KGET 17

GENEVA (AP) – Barcelona is facing a new legal threat from UEFA, including a possible ban from the Champions League, over the payment of millions of dollars to a company linked to a Spanish referee official.

The European soccer body requested an investigation into the case on Thursday, which is already being conducted by prosecutors in Spain.

Champions League regulations in place since 2007 allow clubs to be removed from European competitions if they have been involved in match-fixing. Further disciplinary sanctions may follow.

UEFA said on Thursday that it had asked disciplinary inspectors to “conduct an investigation into the potential breach of UEFA’s legal framework by FC Barcelona in relation to the so-called ‘Caso Negreira'”.

Court documents show Barcelona paid 7.3 million euros ($7.7 million) from 2001 to 2018 to the company of José Maria Enríquez Negreira, the former vice president of Spain’s soccer referees committee.

Prosecutors in Spain have formally charged Barcelona with sports corruption, management fraud and falsification of business documents. The investigating judge will decide whether this will lead to an indictment.

No evidence has yet been published that referees or individual matches actually had an impact.

Barcelona has consistently denied any wrongdoing or conflict of interest, saying it paid for technical reports on referees but never tried to influence their decisions in matches.

Any evidence of match-fixing over the past 16 years could see UEFA ban Barcelona from its competitions for a year and initiate disciplinary proceedings.

Barcelona have a 12-point lead in the Spanish league and are almost certain to qualify for next season’s Champions League – an entry that would cost tens of millions of dollars to a club that posted record losses last year.

The burden of proof for UEFA is set out in the regulations for the Champions League and other club competitions.

“If, on the basis of all the factual circumstances and information available to UEFA, UEFA concludes to its satisfaction that the club is directly and/or indirectly involved (since 27 April 2007) in any activity aimed at organizing or influencing the outcome matches at national or international level, UEFA will declare such club ineligible to participate in the competition,” the rules state.

In previous cases of suspected match-fixing, clubs including Fenerbahce, Metalist Kharkiv and Skanderbeg were banned from UEFA competitions by decisions upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The Turkish FA pulled Fenerbahce from the 2011-12 Champions League, apparently under pressure from UEFA, after it was implicated in match-fixing to secure the domestic league title the previous season. The club was later suspended for two more seasons.

Former Albanian champions Skanderbeg are serving a 10-year sentence following a UEFA match-fixing investigation into betting fraud, including Champions League qualifiers and Europa League group matches in 2015.


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