The former president of FC Barcelona Josep Maria Bartomeu, in a file photo. EFE
Of the four Barça presidents who paid former referee José María Enríquez Negreira, only Josep Maria Bartomeu has so far given explanations to justice. On February 13, Bartomeu declared that he was under investigation before the Prosecutor’s Office, which then kept the investigation open for the 7.3 million euros that the Barça club paid Negreira between 2001 and 2018. In the case that a Barcelona court is now investigating , Bartomeu – who presided over the club between 2014 and 2020 – has the status of investigated, the same as Sandro Rosell (2011-2014). The presidents of Barça who preceded them, Joan Gaspart and Joan Laporta, will be summoned as witnesses because the crimes that could be attributed to them (corruption in sport, unfair administration and documentary falsification) have already prescribed.
EL PAÍS has agreed to Bartomeu’s statement before the Prosecutor’s Office, in which he came to say that he hardly knew him by sight. “I knew him for having been a soccer referee and having coincided in the Spanish Soccer Federation. I knew him from the press, not from having a relationship with him personally,” he said at first when asked by the police. He knew that Negreira, who throughout his tenure was vice president of the Arbitration Technical Committee (CTA), “had some position in the Federation”, but he could not specify which one.
When they took a statement from the former president, the agents had an advantage: they knew Negreira’s statement before the Treasury, the content of which this newspaper advanced. Persecuted by the alleged irregularities of the companies with which he billed Barça (Dasnil and Nilsad), the former referee explained that FC Barcelona was concerned because he feared that harmful decisions would harm him for the benefit of other teams. And that he wanted to make sure “that everything was neutral” and that no decisions were made against him either in the CTA, the governing body of the referees of which he was number two between 1993 and 2018.
Negreira’s statement has more readings when contrasted with Bartomeu’s. The former referee said that, after originally reaching a “verbal agreement” with Barça, he dealt directly and personally with the presidents on duty. He specifically mentioned two, Bartomeu and Rosell, whom he saw “about six times a year.” The policemen asked the person being investigated directly for that statement, which Bartomeu denied. “As I have said before, I have seen him once in the Federation and one day I suppose on the soccer field,” he added.
For the policemen, Bartomeu lied. “Their statements are not supported,” they write in their final report of conclusions: the existence of a “personal relationship” with Negreira is not only explained by the former referee, but “is confirmed” by his secretary, who “affirms the visit of said person in the company’s own office” Dasnil.
In his statement, Bartomeu also denied having been aware of an alleged “verbal contract” between Barça and the former vice president of the CTA. In line with what was stated by other directors of his stage, he stated that he thought that the payments to the Dasnil company were for the arbitration reports that Javier Enríquez, Negreira’s son and sports coach, prepared weekly. “It is absurd that Barça paid so that they were not harmed,” Bartomeu replied to the questions from the police. In its final report of conclusions, prepared a few weeks later, the Police expressed its reservations about that statement. “It is not credible that the president of the FCB believed, thought or was convinced that the payments were for the work of Javier Enríquez”
Reports to “guide the coach”
After denying the majority, Bartomeu spoke about the reports prepared by Javier Enríquez, in which he detailed the characteristics of the refereeing team and, after the game, analyzed their performance. The information was used to “guide the coach” (both from the first team and from the subsidiary) and “if necessary, to present an appeal to the Federation”. It was, in short, “important for making sporting decisions.” In public statements, one of Barça’s coaches, Ernesto Valverde, stated that he was unaware of the existence of the reports. Both he and Luis Enrique must testify as witnesses before the Barcelona judge who is investigating the Negreira case. Bartomeu was convinced that this is the service for which the payments were made, which “had been carried out since the time of Laporta and Gaspart.”
According to the investigation, the sports coach did not bill the club directly, but did so through the Tresep company, owned by the former Barça director (now deceased) Josep Contreras, who in return obtained a large commission that could amount to 50% of the amount. The former president was unaware, always according to his statement, of the club’s business relationship with a Contreras company, whom he “knew as a member of the Barcelona B sports committee.”
The former referee received 7.3 million euros for alleged verbal advice that, according to the investigation, does not respond to any real service. The trail of payments begins in 2001, with Gaspart, and ends abruptly in July 2018. It was precisely Bartomeu’s board that turned off the tap, which led to Negreira’s threats. The decision came just two months after he left his position as number two of the Spanish referees, which led investigators to suspect that it was not a mere coincidence. Asked about this point, Bartomeu explained that it was all due to a policy of cutting expenses due to the bad economic situation of the club. “In 2018, the decision was made to reduce expenses in the sports area in general, and one of the decisions made is to do without the services provided by Javier Enríquez.” Bartomeu mentions the son and not his father because, at least according to his version, it was he who received the payments from the club.
You can follow EL PAÍS Deportes on Facebook and Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
Leave a Reply