Spanish football is enduring its worst ever moment because of the refereeing corruption case involving Barcelona, La Liga president Javier Tebas said Monday.
Last week Spanish prosecutors charged the Catalan club with corruption after payments of more than €7.3 million ($7.8 million) to a company owned by a former refereeing chief were uncovered earlier this year.
Barcelona say they paid Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, the former referee and ex-vice president of the refereeing committee of the Spanish football federation (CTA) between 1994 and 2018, for reports and advice related to refereeing.
“Yes, (it’s the worst moment) that I remember,” Tebas told Movistar channel Vamos.
“The problem that we have is the worst. There are payments recognised by Barcelona to the vice-president of the CTA, that’s something abnormal.
“It’s understandable that tension is generated. The reputation of our football is at stake. I am ashamed. We have no explanation from Barcelona.”
Barcelona president Joan Laporta spoke at an event on Monday and said he would defend his team against “attacks”.
Laporta appeared emotional during his speech and said it was not weakness, but instead showed his desire to take on his club’s detractors.
“Don’t think that I’m getting emotional out of weakness, I’m getting emotional because I really want to confront all the scoundrels who are tarnishing our badge,” said Laporta.
“There are ferocious attacks to sully our club badge, which have nothing to do with reality.
“And you can be sure that the board of directors that I have the honour of chairing will defend it with all our might.”
Spanish newspaper El Pais reported Monday that former Barcelona coaches Luis Enrique and Ernesto Valverde, would be called upon as witnesses in the court proceedings.
Reigning Spanish champions Real Madrid said Sunday they would appear as an “injured party” in the case once it moves forward.
As well as the club and Enriquez Negreira, two of the club’s former presidents, Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell, are facing the same charge of corruption.
On a sporting level, Barcelona face no immediate danger because the governing bodies of Spanish, European and world football have five-year statute of limitations, Tebas has said.
On a criminal level, the accused could face up to four years in prison.
Sanctions against the club could range from “suspension of activity...to outright dissolution as a company,” Alberto Palomar, professor of law at Carlos III University of Madrid told AFP.