The FC Barcelona Referee Scandal

Uncovering the details of the recent allegations against FC Barcelona


With soccer being such a massive and lucrative business, bribery and fraud have always been problematic in the sport.

F.C. Barcelona, one of the most well-known soccer teams in the world, has recently been accused of bribing former referee chief Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira through payments to his personal company, in order to get decisions ruled in their favor. On March 10, Barcelona prosecutors brought charges against FC Barcelona for “continued corruption between individuals in the sports field”, false administration, and documentary falsification at the top magistrate’s court in Barcelona. The prosecutors also revealed that FC Barcelona reached a verbal agreement with Negreira so that in exchange for the money Barcelona would receive favorable referee decisions during their matches. The issue was found when tax officials found irregularities in tax payments made by DASNIL 95 SL, a company owned by Negreira. It was then found that Barcelona had made payments to this company. Negreira reported to the Spanish radio station Cadena Ser that no such documentation exists, and that all business was conducted verbally. In addition to this Barcelona president, Bartomeu claimed that payments were made to DASNIL in exchange for “technical reports” only. It is reported that FC Barcelona paid EUR 6.7 million to the vice president of the referee committee from 2001 to 2018. Interestingly, Barcelona stopped making payments around the same time Negreira left the position of vice president. Catalan referee Estrada Fernández also filed a separate criminal complaint against Negreira and his son stating that Negreira provided arbitration advisory services, with the objective of guaranteeing an arbitration favorable to Barcelona’s interests.

What does this mean for Barcelona?

Well if you want to be extreme, if this was found to be true, all of Barcelona’s La Liga titles from 2001 to 2018 would be put into question. During this period Barcelona was in fierce competition with Real Madrid almost every year for the league championship which means that gaining favorable referee decisions could have been the difference between winning and losing a title for Barcelona. However, despite these serious allegations, it is unlikely that action will be taken against Barcelona anytime soon because a more in-depth investigation must take place before any charges can be made. It has also been confirmed by La Liga president Javier Tebas that FC Barcelona will not face any kind of sporting sanctions.

There’ll be no sports sanctions. It’s been studied, from 2018 to 2023, five years have passed & these types of actions are prescribed from only three years”

— Javier Tebas


If these accusations are proven to be true what should Barcelona’s punishment be? Should they be stripped of their titles? Taken out of European competition? Receive a point deduction and fines? These decisions have yet to be made and it will be interesting to see what if any action is taken against Barcelona. Currently, after beating Real Madrid this past weekend, Barcelona is in 1st place in La Liga with a 12-point lead over second-place Real Madrid.