Barcelona are said to be ‘confident’ that they will avoid a ban from the UEFA Champions League amid their ongoing corruption case.
Barça have been charged with ‘continuous sporting corruption’ by Spanish courts, with it alleged that they made several payments to Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira – the former vice-president of Spain’s refereeing committee – over information and analysis of match officials which could benefit them.
It had previously been speculated that any wrongdoing could result in Barcelona being barred from entering the Champions League, with UEFA confirming on Thursday they are launching their own investigation into the scandal.
UEFA’s statement read: “In accordance with Article 31(4) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, UEFA Ethics and Disciplinary Inspectors have today been appointed to conduct an investigation regarding a potential violation of UEFA’s legal framework by FC Barcelona in connection with the so-called ‘Caso Negreira’.”
However, the Daily Mail report that Barcelona are ‘confident’ that UEFA will not hit them with a ban or financial penalty.
La Blaugrana maintain their innocence in the scandal and believe that any punishment from UEFA could be legally reversed or challenged if they are found not guilty by Spanish courts.
Barcelona are already in financial trouble having failed to reap the lucrative rewards of reaching the Champions League knockout stages for two seasons running.
Part of the charges against Barcelona claim that they paid Negreira and his company in order to receive preferential treatment from referees.
“Through presidents [Sandro] Rosell and [Josep Maria] Bartomeu, Barcelona reached and maintained a strictly confidential verbal agreement with the defendant Negreira, so that, in his capacity as vice-president of the refereeing committee and in exchange for money, he would carry out actions aimed at favouring Barcelona in the decision making of the referees in the matches played by the club, and thus in the results of the competitions,” Spanish prosecutors said.
This key detail hints at match-fixing, which is punishable by UEFA with a ban from European competition.
La Liga have already ruled out sporting sanctions against Barcelona as these charges are historic, but president Javier Tebas has claimed he will revisit the case if the club are found guilty.