Xavi Hernandez before the La Liga match between Barcelona and Cadiz at Camp Nou, Barcelona, February 2023.

9 key figures on Barcelona’s referee scandal: ‘Relegation may occur’

There’s only one story in Spanish football right now – the charges against Barcelona for corruption over payments the club made to a former vice-president of Spain’s referees’ committee.

It emerged last month that Barca paid Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira and a company he owns a reported total of €8.4m euros (£7.4m) between 2001 and 2018.

And, despite the club currently sitting eight points clear at the top of La Liga, there remains the possibility that Barcelona could be relegated for the first time in the club’s history if found guilty in the Spanish courts.

We’ve done some digging to reveal what nine key figures have said about the scandal that’s rocked Spain.


Xavi, who won eight La Liga titles with Barcelona as a player between 1998 and 2015, said he had no knowledge of the payments and never had the feeling his team had any advantage.

“I always wanted to win, but fairly. If I thought we were cheating I’d have gone home,” he said after the 2-2 draw with Manchester United in the Europa League last month.

But Spanish fans have enjoyed goading Barcelona about their potential relegation over the scandal.

“I was surprised at the hostile atmosphere towards Barca,” Xavi said after the win at Athletic Bilbao on March 12. “It was sad to see.

“[Barca] are being judged before time, which I don’t think is good for society. Everyone is free to [air their opinion], and I respect all opinions, whether I agree with them or not, but it made me sad.”

And Xavi also recently revealed the impact the current furore was having upon his person.

“I am constantly judged,” Xavi said last week. “It’s tough because I have a family and young children. There are many moments in which it doesn’t pay to be the Barca coach — especially if you’re a fan like me.

“It’s really hard when they say you are no good or you don’t have any character. Sometimes you don’t see it and a friend calls up to tell you you’re being killed.

“The worst days of my life have been as coach of Barca. I have wondered if it is worth it. I don’t need money … but I am a Barca fan, this is my club and I want to help.”

Xavi Hernandez celebrates scoring for Barcelona in 2011.

READ: 17 of the best quotes on Xavi: ‘There will be Before Xavi and After Xavi’

Joan Laporta

“You can be sure that in the board of directors that I have the honour of chairing we will defend the entity with all our strength,” Barca president Laporta told Marca in an explosive interview.

“The captains of Barca represent our values and our feeling and you show it on the pitch when you leave your skin and every last drop of blood.

“Barca is a club with values. We use the word values, not to look good, but because values are really a fundamental, fundamental part of our model of sporting excellence.

“And that’s why Barca is admired and recognized all over the world. It also happens that some, motivated by envy, try to erode our reputation with campaigns made from bad faith.

“Don’t think I’m moved by weakness, I’m excited because I really want to stand up to all the scoundrels who are staining our shield. Let no one think that it is because of weakness.”

Javier Tebas

Tebas recently told the press that Laporta should resign if he could not provide a reasonable explanation for the payments to Enriquez Negreira.

Laporta then responded with a torrent of strong statements to Tebas, accusing him of being obsessed with Barcelona, but the La Liga president dismissed that idea entirely.

“An investigation process has started and national and world football needs an explanation,” said Tebas.

“Joan Laporta cannot say that there is someone in charge of financial controls, whom I have told that they must do something because I don’t like Barcelona, ​​no.

“I don’t have an obsession with the club and he knows it, the rules are not from Tebas, but from all the departments of La Liga, it is only a matter of complying with them.

“The reputational damage that is being done to Spanish and international football is already irreparable.”

Joan Maria Xiol

“The possibility of relegation may occur,” Catalan Sports Court president Xiol said.

“UEFA can judge events that have no international significance. If there is evidence of irregularities, they can act. Also on the sanctions list is the possibility of losing titles.”


Jose Mourinho

“Why didn’t the referee call four clear penalties for Chelsea?” Mourinho asked about decisions against Barcelona’s opponents in Champions League matches between 2008 and 2011 in a clip unveiled by Sports Brief.

“Why were [Thiago] Motta and [Robin] Van Persie sent off? Why? Where does this power come from?”

READ: ‘We’re the best, f*ck you’: The story of Barca & Real’s four Clasicos in 18 days

Joan Gaspart

Gaspart, president of Barcelona from 2000 to 2003, said on Catalunya Radio: “If I remember starting those payments? No, I don’t.

“If I did, I would not take any phone calls and I would try to disappear, to be honest — and I’m not doing that.”

Iturralde Gonzalez

“What’s being spread to the public is a big fallacy. Enríquez Negreira had no power nor control over the referees. None,” Gonzalez said on Carrusel Deportivo.

Furthermore, the former match official went on to make a sensational claim about Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, stating that he tried to influence the match official in the past.

“After a Real Madrid – Depor match, a man wanted to take me into a room. He told me: ‘I’m only asking you to referee us in the same way you do to Barça.’ I asked him if he was joking. That man was Florentino Perez,” he added.

Ernesto Valverde

“It’s been a bit of a surprise for me, too,” Valverde said on Saturday before Barcelona faced his Athletic Bilbao side.

“During my time in Barcelona, I didn’t look at them, and actually didn’t even know they existed. It’s something common: here, at Athletic Bilbao, we have our reports about the referees that we are going to have on the next game.

“I imagine the story will get clearer with time. We don’t have the full picture so I prefer to remain cautious about that.”

Quique Setien

Asked about the case, former Barcelona coach Setien said: “As the years go by, you realise that you can no longer change the things that are rotten. In this sport there are lots of people who have never kicked a ball in their lives but have benefited well beyond their value.

“Everyone knows that where there is money there are people with hidden interests and a lot of corruption.”

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