Cops Raid Spanish Soccer Federation's Offices

More bad news for the organization, which was just rocked by a sexism scandal
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 28, 2023 7:27 AM CDT
More Bad News for Spain's Soccer Federation
A view of Camp Nou stadium ahead of a soccer match between FC Barcelona and Valladolid CF in Barcelona, Spain, on April 5, 2021.   (AP Photo/Joan Monfort, File)

Spanish police raided the offices of the country's soccer federation on Thursday as part of an investigation into the payment of millions of dollars over several years by FC Barcelona to a former vice president of Spain's refereeing committee. The Guardia Civil confirmed to the AP that its police had searched the offices of the refereeing committee at federation headquarters near Madrid. Police said they hadn't made any arrests and were acting on the orders of Judge Joaquin Aguirre, who's investigating the case for a court in Barcelona.

In March, state prosecutors formally accused Barcelona of corruption in sports, fraudulent management, and falsification of mercantile documentation. Prosecutors said the club paid Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, a former referee who was a part of the federation's refereeing committee from 1994 to 2018, about $7.7 million from 2001 to 2018. Also Thursday, Aguirre formally added a new accusation to the probe, saying there are indications that bribery occurred between Barcelona and Negreira. The accusation of bribery replaces the previous accusation of corruption in sports.

The payments were initially investigated as part of a tax probe into a company run by Negreira. Barcelona has denied any wrongdoing or conflict of interest, saying it paid for technical reports on referees but never tried to influence their decisions in games. The accusations are against Barcelona, Negreira, former Barcelona presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, and former Barcelona executives Oscar Grau and Albert Soler. Getting reports on referees is common practice in Spain, and clubs can pay other companies or have them prepared internally, as Barcelona does now.

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But paying large amounts of money to a person involved in the running of Spain's referees for reports isn't a normal practice. The raids come after the federation was rocked by a sexism scandal after its former president kissed a player on the lips without her consent during the Women's World Cup awards ceremony last month. In Spain, an investigative judge carries out the initial investigation into a possible crime to determine if it should go to trial, which a different judge then oversees.

(More Spain stories.)

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