Spain’s Clasico is one of the biggest sporting events in the world, pitting Barcelona and Real Madrid head-to-head, but Sunday’s La Liga preparations were overshadowed by “Caso Negreira”. Spanish prosecutors accuse Barca of making payments totaling around 7.3 million euros ($7.8 million) between 2001 and 2018 to the company of former referee Jose Maria Enriquez Negrera.
The club said they paid for the referee’s report and advice, but prosecutors accused the club of trying to get favorable decisions from officials.
The charges were brought last week against Barcelona, the former vice-president of the Spanish Referees’ Council (CTA) Negrera and two former Barcelona presidents, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu et al.
While La Liga leaders Barcelona are close to clinching the title if they beat second-placed Real Madrid on Sunday to move 12 points clear, the Negrera case is still in the headlines as tensions mount in Spain.
Protests against the alleged corruption scandal took place in various stadiums during the first round of matches after Barcelona were charged last weekend.Most evident in the Basque Country, where Harvey Hernandez’s side face Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Supporters threw fake banknotes emblazoned with the words “Mafia” and FC Barcelona badges onto the pitch. “I was surprised by the hostile atmosphere at Barcelona and sad to see it,” Xavi said after his side’s narrow 1-0 win.
“(Barca) are being judged too early and I think it’s not good for society.”
After Barcelona paid Negrera’s company in February, the club responded quickly and denied any wrongdoing. Chairman Joan Laporta said the club had ordered an external investigation and would provide an answer as soon as possible.
However, they have yet to schedule a press conference to answer questions on the issue and their silence has been criticized by La Liga president Javier Tebas.
“Yes (it was the worst moment I can remember),” Tebas told Movistar channel Vamos on Tuesday.
“The problems we have are the worst. It is not normal for Barcelona to admit to paying the CTA vice-president.
“The tension is understandable. The reputation of our football is at stake. I’m ashamed. We didn’t get an explanation from Barcelona.”
Laporta did speak at Barcelona’s lunch event with Equestrian Circle and said there was a “movement” to the detriment of Barcelona.
The president said: “Let’s be clear, Barcelona never bought referees, Barcelona never had the intention to buy referees, absolutely not.” Some, including Tebas, criticized Laporta and Barcelona for playing victims .
Last Sunday, Real Madrid joined the CTA, the Spanish Football Federation, La Liga and the Spanish National Sports Council as “injured parties” in the lawsuit against Barcelona.
Barcelona will therefore not hold the traditional directors’ lunch with Real Madrid and its president Florentino Perez ahead of the Clasico, according to reports in Spain.
After a relatively amicable relationship between the two clubs – both co-operating on the failed European Super League plans – it marks a cooling off.
However, Perez has come under pressure from supporters for Real Madrid to make a move against Barca. Tebas spoke again on Thursday, saying that he does not think Barcelona “bought the referee”, but he also said that “hiding is not the way”, and the club must provide a complete answer.
The federation president reiterated that no sporting penalty could be imposed on Barcelona as the alleged violation happened so long ago.
Laporta took to social media on Friday to try to shift the focus to the Clasico, more than ever looking to get support from the fans as the club nears its first La Liga title since 2019. “We’re going to defend ourselves, we’re going to attack, but right now I want us to focus on cheering for the team,” Laporta said.
“We shouldn’t divert our attention to other things. Let’s support Barca because we love them.”
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