Football clubs in the Spanish league expressed concern on Tuesday regarding payments made by Barcelona to a referees’ official over several years.
Barcelona has been under scrutiny since it was revealed that the state prosecutor was investigating payments totaling millions of dollars made by the club to a company belonging to the vice-president of the Spanish federation’s refereeing committee.
Barca denied any wrongdoing, claiming that it paid for technical reports on referees but never attempted to influence their decisions in games.
The league released a statement saying that the majority of clubs had expressed “deep concern” about the case, which they viewed as being of the utmost seriousness.
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LaLiga president Javier Tebas stated that the case had damaged the reputation of Spanish soccer and called for Barcelona president Joan Laporta to resign if he was unable to explain the payments.
Laporta stated on Tuesday, February 21, 2023, that the club would soon provide an explanation but criticized what he termed a campaign to tarnish Barcelona’s reputation. He also accused Tebas of being anti-Barcelona and trying to destabilize the club, but vowed not to resign.
“Tebas has always showed that he is anti-Barcelona,” Laporta said.
“He tries to destabilize us. But I’m not going to give him the satisfaction of resigning.”
Barcelona announced that it had launched its own investigation into the matter with outside assistance.
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LaLiga said the proposal of a joint statement from the clubs against Barcelona received “unanimous support” of all clubs in the first and second divisions with the exception of Barcelona and Real Madrid, “who objected to the joint statement for different reasons.” Madrid president Florentino Pérez has been historically at odds with Tebas.
The league and the clubs’ executive committee “reject and condemn the facts, and are deeply concerned and actively working to clarify any irregularities that may have occurred.”
Sevilla and Espanyol both released statements expressing their concern about the situation on Monday. The league stated that it was closely monitoring the situation and would act firmly within the bounds of the law. It sent a letter to the prosecutor’s office and offered to assist any other European entities investigating the matter.
The payments have not been linked to any illegal or improper activity by Barcelona, and they were being investigated as part of a tax probe into the company by the former vice-president of the refereeing committee.
LaLiga stated that sporting sanctions against Barcelona were not possible because the statute of limitations on the possible irregularities had expired.