La Liga president Javier Tebas said on Monday that the country’s top-level sport is going through its worst moment because of the Barcelona referee corruption case.
Prosecutors last week brought corruption charges against the Catalan club after discovering earlier this year that they had paid 7.3 million euros ($7.8 million) to a company owned by a former referee chairman.
In response, Barcelona said it paid José María Enriquez Negrera, a former referee and former vice-president of the local sports federation’s refereeing committee between 1994 and 2018, to receive reports and advice on refereeing.
In this context, Debas told Movistar Vamos, “Yes, (it was the worst moment) I remember.”
He added, “The problem we have is the worst. Barcelona has approved the vice-president of the confederation’s refereeing committee, which is unusual.”
He added: “It is understandable that there is tension. Our football reputation is at stake. I am ashamed. We have had no explanation from Barcelona.”
Barca president Joan Laborta spoke at the event on Monday, insisting he would defend his team against “attacks”. Laporta became emotional during his speech, saying it was not weakness, but a willingness to face his club’s critics.
“I don’t think I’m emotional because of weakness, I’m emotional because I want to face all the traitors who desecrate our badge” and “there are malicious attacks that tarnish our club badge and they really have nothing to do with it.”.
“You can be sure that the honorable board of directors headed by me will protect it with all our might,” he asserted.
Spanish newspaper El Pais reported on Monday that former Barcelona coaches Luis Enrique and Ernesto Valverde will be called as witnesses in the trial proceedings.
For its part, Spanish champions Real Madrid said on Sunday it would appear as an “aggrieved party” in the case once it moves forward.
Apart from the club and Enriques Negrera, two former club presidents, Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosel, are also facing the same corruption charges.
On a sporting level, Barcelona faces no immediate danger because Spanish, European and world soccer’s governing bodies have five-year time limits, Debas said.
At the criminal level, the accused can be sentenced to imprisonment for up to four years. Sanctions against the club include “suspension of operations.
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