Josep Maria Bartomeu
Former FC Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu

Football Club Barcelona has been slapped with a lawsuit coming from the Spanish Public Prosecutor's office in connection with the scandal that broke out last month called the "Caso Negreira." The club has been accused of being involved in corruption in sport after it was discovered that they had paid former Technical Director of Referees vice-president Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira for a number of years.

The news about the lawsuit broke out all over Spanish media on Tuesday, and according to El Pais, the lawsuit names the club as defendant, including former president Josep Maria Bartomeu. It may be remembered that Bartomeu was forced to resign in 2020 after the "Barçagate" scandal exploded, wherein the club was accused of hiring a black propaganda team to damage the reputations of its own players. Apart from that, he and his board also left the club over a billion euros in debt.

The lawsuit has been filed after weeks of speculations over what would happen to the information that has been revealed about the payouts to Negreira's company. Initially, it was feared that nothing will come out of the issue due to the statute of limitations which only allows La Liga to pursue cases and hand down sporting penalties over incidents that took place within the last three years.

However, the laws are different outside of La Liga itself and it will now be up to Spanish courts if the evidence is enough to warrant a hearing on the case.

Current Barcelona president Joan Laporta has been left to clean up the mess that Bartomeu and his board left when they resigned from their positions in October 2020. Laporta took office in March 2021, and has since been on a mission to balance Barcelona's finances and restore their strength on the pitch.

However, even after numerous efforts made by the current board, the club continues to have scandals blowing up. The latest of which implies that Barcelona had been "buying" favours from referees through the payments made to Negreira until 2018.

Laporta has since denied the accusations despite admitting that the club paid Negreira as a "consultant" who provided the club with valuable information about how to deal with referees during matches. "Barça has never bought referees and Barça has never had any intention of buying referees. Absolutely never. The forcefulness of the facts contradicts those who try to change the story," he said during an event on Tuesday.

Laporta is also expected to call for a press conference to provide more clarity on the situation now that the club is facing a lawsuit.

What is the Caso Negreira all about?

A tax investigation into a company owned by Enriquez Negreira inadvertently uncovered payments that he received from FC Barcelona from 2016-2018 which amounted to a total of £1.2m. At the time when the payments were made, he was the vice president of Spain's Referees' Committee.

After further investigation, it was revealed that the payments were not limited to the initial period that came to light. The relationship between the club and Enriquez Negreira apparently goes as far back as 2001, and the payments received by the former referee has gone up to at least 6.6m euros (£5.9m).

Barcelona admitted that they hired Enriquez Negreira as a consultant, but denied that they had done so to influence officiating decisions during their matches. This is what the public prosecutors are aiming to investigate. It is understood that the club has yet to provide evidence that they received technical reports related to professional refereeing to help them during matches.

The club's relationship with Negreira appeared to have ended when he left his post at the committee in 2018.