Joan Laporta went on stage this Tuesday and took the floor. He took advantage of an institutional act of the club to show his face and limit his responsibilities in the alleged irregular payments from FC Barcelona to Enríquez Negreira when he was vice president of the Spanish referees. After a rather victimizing first message — “It is no coincidence that this comes out now,” he said in a statement after Cadena Ser uncovered the case — the Barca president exposed his version. And he did it by delimiting his responsibility and arguing that the reports requested during the time he held the presidency all corresponded to an invoice and documentary support. Although, from that time, the Prosecutor’s Office has no document that proves what the huge amount of money paid to the former referee was used for.
In his speech, Laporta only spoke of his first term (2003-2010). He did not mention the inheritance received from Joan Gaspart (2000-2003) nor did he point to his successors, Sandro Rosell (2010-2015) and Josep Maria Bartomeu (2015-2021). “We consider these technical and player consultations necessary,” argued the Barca president about the alleged work (“technical reports related to professional arbitration”) that FC Barcelona paid to the Dasnil company, linked to José María Enríquez Negreira, then vice president of the Referees Technical Committee (CTA). “These reports were made with the corresponding invoice and had documentary and video support. That was done like this during my previous mandate, ”explained the Catalan lawyer without making express reference to Negreira or Dasnil.
The link between Barcelona and Dasnil began during Gaspart’s stage. However, the former Barça president assures that he was unaware of the existence of these invoices. “I have no record of these payments. Therefore, I cannot take any responsibility,” Gaspart explained. Sandro Rosell, on the other hand, did not speak. While Bartomeu, who was the one who started working with Negreira Jr., he boasts of having broken with this service that the club hired from 2001 to 2018. “I turned off Negreira’s tap; Laporta had quadrupled his salary,” Bartomeu recalled. In the 2009-2010 season, with Laporta, Dasnil billed Barcelona half a million euros.
There is therefore no joint story that unifies the versions of the four Barça presidents who hired Negreira’s services. “We are conducting an internal investigation. We have outsourced it. In the shortest possible time we will explain the information we have in the club. We want to give explanations,” Laporta said.
The Prosecutor’s investigation has proven that, at least since 2001, the club paid close to seven million euros for alleged verbal advice from Enríquez Negreira of which there is no trace. The income went to the Dasnil company and was partly withdrawn in cash by the former referee, who in his only known statement (before the Tax Agency) said that Barça hired his services to ensure “neutral” arbitrations.
The investigations have also proven the existence of a second block of payments that Barça made to the manager’s son, Javier Enríquez, due to reports on the referees who were going to direct Barça’s matches. These reports were sent to the club on a weekly basis, sometimes accompanied by a DVD. Both Barça and the coach have delivered part of these reports to the Prosecutor’s Office. The payments, between at least 2015 and 2018 during Bartomeu’s tenure, were channeled through a company owned by Josep Contreras, a manager linked to the Barça subsidiary and historically linked to the club, who sent them to his son’s company , Soccercam.
Despite everything, Laporta diverted the focus towards his enemies: “Thebes has come to the fore again”, the top manager of Barcelona started. The president of the employers had asked for his resignation a day before if he did not explain well what happened in the Negreira Case. And Laporta responded like this: “I will not give Mr. Tebas the pleasure of ceasing to be president of Barcelona. That is decided by the partners. Anyone who tries to dirty the history and image of Barcelona will receive a forceful response”. And he continued: “We had already been warned that Tebas was promoting a campaign against Barça and against me. He has already removed his mask. He continues with his obsession with Barça, with his phobia with our club ”.
The tension between Barcelona and LaLiga worsened in the summer of 2021. Then, the Catalan entity refused to sign the agreement with CVC, which consisted of selling 10% of the income from television rights for the next 50 years. Barça’s rejection of the LaLiga offer precipitated, according to the Barça directors, the goodbye of Lionel Messi. “Thebes does not forgive that we did not sign the agreement with CVC, which is an agreement that he controls. Nor does it support that we are in the Super League. His intention is to dominate Barça from a distance. He has realized that he cannot do that with me, ”Laporta concluded.
Barça’s partners, for their part, do not look the other way. “The representatives of the club are obliged to collaborate with the official bodies that investigate the facts, in which Barça may be affected and harmed in some way. Also, if applicable, they must denounce all those people who may be involved in this case”, the associations of supporters clubs Dignitat Blaugrana, Compromissaris FCB, El Senyor Ramon, Seguiment FCB and Un Crit Valent published jointly.
You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook and Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.