‘Real influences arbitration for 70 years’

‘Real influences arbitration for 70 years’
Barcelona president Laporta during press conference

NOS Football

For the first time, FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta has spoken publicly about the multimillion-dollar payments the club made to the vice president of the referees’ commission. In doing so, Laporta chose to go on the attack.

The president spoke at a press conference of “a public lynching” of FC Barcelona “designed to damage our reputation.”

The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Spain opened an investigation into Barcelona in February. The club paid 7.3 million euros between 2001 and 2018 to a company owned by José Maria Negreira, then vice president of the referees’ union. That happened under Laporta’s predecessor Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Following an internal investigation at Barcelona, Laporta denies any bribery. Negreira’s company allegedly only provided advice on “technical arbitration matters.” “I am fully convinced that Barcelona never had the intention of taking any sporting advantage from this,” Laporta said.

‘Real traditionally favored’

In addition to the Spanish judiciary, European soccer federation UEFA also announced it was investigating the case. Earlier, the Spanish federation and Barça’s arch-rival Real Madrid had called for an in-depth investigation.

The fact that Real Madrid in particular interfered in the case aroused anger among Laporta. “I would like to say something about a club that feels disadvantaged athletically,” the Barcelona president said. “In fact, Real Madrid itself has traditionally been favored by the arbitration.”

“Let’s not forget that for seven decades members of the referees’ union were either former members or former players or former directors of Real Madrid. For seventy years they were the ones who decided which referees to appoint.”

Laporta during press conference

“That this club is now claiming that it has been wronged is an unprecedented expression of cynicism,” Laporta roared. “I trust that in this process they will still be exposed.”

According to Laporta, a deliberate attempt is being made to damage his club just when Barcelona is heading for its first national title since 2019. “This is not a coincidence. This smear campaign is designed to destabilize us, just when we are coming back from a slump.”

“Barcelona has always been the epitome of fair play, both on and off the pitch. All the awards we have won in recent decades are due to the talent and commitment of our players, coaches and staff.”

Kayleigh Williams