What does this mean for La Liga?
The football club dominating the leaderboard in La Liga has been accused of corruption towards paying of referees. They have been accused of paying off the former vice president of Spain’s referee committee a total of 7.3 million euros between 2001 and 2018. This Spanish club has won 4 Champions Leagues, 6 La Ligas, 6 Copa del Reys, and many more. If these claims are proven correct in court, this could instigate bad press for the club and its crediblity; if their success is truly of their own merit or not.
Prosecutors in Spain are investigating payments done to José María Enríquez Negreira between 2016 and 2018 although it has been found that it dates back much further than then. The UEFA initially launched this formal investigation last year when former the Vice President submitted a tax audit of his company Dasnil to bring clarity to the disbursement. Both Barcelona and Enríquez Negreira came out with statements saying that all he provided were reports with technical advice in them as FC Barcelona “wanted to make sure that no decisions were made against them” and “that everything would be neutral.” The Tax Agency also states that this information was relayed verbally, however, his son and the administrator of Dasnil deny it and say there is documentation to prove it. Laporta, current club President, tweeted that these accusations were made for negative attention to be associated with Barca and that in no way is it true. As “Barcelona fans, be calm. Barcelona are innocent of what they are accused of and the victims of a campaign against their honorability in which they are now all involved". Contrastingly, he has yet to set up a press conference to address questions and the issue at hand. In terms of refereeing, The Royal Spanish Football Federation states that they condemn any alleged corruption or existence of payments in this interaction. They even go on to add how “No active referee or member of the bodies of the CTA may carry out any work that could be susceptible to a conflict of interest,”, Distancing themselves from the behaviour of the former Vice President.
Now what does this mean for the legendary El Clásico that has been around for more than a century? Naturally, this only fuels the rivalry further leaving many fans upset. An official statement has come out from Real Madrid outlining how they “wish to express its utmost concern regarding the gravity of the facts and reiterates its confidence in the legal system. The club has agreed that, in defence of its legitimate rights, it will appear at the trial when the judge opens it up to the affected parties."
Leading up to the El Clásico game on the 19th of March, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez said he would not be attending amidst the accusations of corruption. This marks the first time he does not travel with his team to Camp Nou in 20 years. Laporta also told press that they did not have their lunch together, which had grown to be a custom over the years. Following the game itself, Barcelona won 2-1 after scoring an OG as well as a very close VAR call done to cancel Real Madrids Goal. This would make it the 3rd VAR goal of Real Madrids this season contrasting to Barcelonas 1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtwaDBjNop0
It goes without saying that Real fans aren’t the only ones that are upset. Supporters for various different teams in La Liga have shown their unhappiness with the corruption through different forms of protest. As FC Barcelona played against Athletic Club on the 12th, fans threw bills with the word “Mafia” printed on them. Xavi, Barcelona’s coach stated that he was unhappy with this situation and that before anything, the people should focus on the game and not the bureaucracy that goes on behind the scenes.
This could mean grave things for FC Barca, including affecting their next season in La Liga as well as receiving a fine. The amount has been speculated and can not be concluded until the prosecution is over. It also goes to question what will happen to the participating parties such as the former Vice President as well as Barcelonas club officials. Additionally, if Barcelonas reputation were to greatly drop and extra measures were to be taken, this would completely collapse the structure of La Liga and the glory it stands at today. It would be detrimental to Real Madrid as they get a great amount of attraction from their games against FC Barcelona, contributing to their profits. It also begs the question if Barca will actually be properly charged if they are accurately accused, or if this will all blow over due to their high status and power of their football club.