Barcelona executives have alleged a senior officiating head in Spain was paid by the club for almost two decades as an act of ‘self defence’, according to Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

For payments made to Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, the former vice-president of the Spanish referees’ committee, on Friday, the club was accused of corruption.

According to the accusation, Negreira engaged in measures that would “lead to Barcelona being favoured in the decision-making of the referees” in exchange for money.

Former club executives who talked with El Mundo claimed that Barcelona was defending itself against perceived animosity toward it.

The account of what happened is consistent with what Negreira said when the Spanish Inland Revenue first started looking into him. He said that Barcelona employed him in order to ensure “impartial” officiating.

El Mundo claims that it has also been told in confidence by the former Barcelona directors that Negreira’s relationship with the club was left intact because he vowed to exact revenge on the organization by disclosing it.

This is consistent with faxes from Negreira’s attorneys to the club at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, when the club had finally stopped paying the vice president of the Referees’ Committee, who was by that point no longer in office.

Barcelona allegedly paid Negreira €7.3 million (£6.46 million) via two firms he owed money to, DASNIL and NILSAT, according to the Public Prosecutor in Spain.

Investigators will now interview former Barcelona coaches Luis Enrique and Ernesto Valverde as well as president Joan Laporta who was almost in tears when he addressed a group of Barcelona players from all sports and youth categories on Monday telling them he was emotional because he was desperate to: ‘take on the shameless individuals staining the club’s badge’.

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