Barcelona's UEFA Champions League status confirmed amid referee payment probe. Allegations of corruption and future decision still pending.
|Barcelona will be allowed to take part in the group stages of the champions league in the coming season despite their ongoing probe involving a payment to a member of the La Liga referees board. (Photo credit: Marca)|
UEFA has confirmed FC Barcelona’s participation in next season’s UEFA Champions League on Thursday, though it said an investigation into more than $7 million paid to a refereeing official could be revisited if more evidence emerges.
Barcelona's place in the Champions League group stage, worth tens of millions of euros earned by winning the Spanish La Liga last season, could have been at risk from the much-advertised Caso Negreira scandal.
Court documents show Barcelona paid €7.3 million ($7.7 million) from 2001 to 2018 to the company of José Mara Enriquez Negreira, the former vice president of Spain’s football refereeing committee.
Prosecutors in Spain formally accused Barcelona of corruption in sports, fraudulent management, and falsification of business documents.
However, no clear allegations of any specific fixed games or referees who were influenced have emerged since UEFA opened its investigation in March.
UEFA competition rules require teams to be removed from one season of European competition if they are implicated in fixing any domestic or international game since April 2007. Further disciplinary punishments could also follow.
UEFA said Thursday that Barcelona is now "provisionally admitted to taking part" in the Champions League, though a "future decision on admission or exclusion" is still possible. The Champions League group-stage draw is on Aug. 31.
Barcelona has consistently denied any wrongdoing or conflict of interest, saying they paid for technical reports on referees but never tried to influence their decisions in games.
The UEFA investigation was conducted even as Barcelona had a pending suit against UEFA at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg over the Super League project that failed in 2021.
Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Juventus have argued UEFA has monopoly control over rival competitions and was the reason for the now-defunct European Super League, a movement that rattled UEFA to the point of court injections.