BarcelonaTwo months and two days after the Negreira case broke, Joan Laporta came out to give explanations. The president of Barça excused himself by saying that, before speaking, he wanted to have knowledge of the cause and that he was waiting to have the reports that the team of compliance and an external office. A way to give more force to his words, which, on the other hand, have not gone off the script. Because, basically, Laporta has come to say what the club has said previously through its official channels: “that Barça has never bought referees nor has it intended to do so”.
The expectation was maximum in the Auditorium 1899. And the staging, minimalist. A lectern, a stool, a microphone and a table with four boxes where the prepared reports were supposedly kept. Three garnet and one red. At eleven o’clock Joan Laporta appeared. He was doing what he likes to do: an initial introduction and then answering questions from the media. His master lines were clear. First of all, that there are documents that support the work done. That the payments to Negreira are market price advice. And, also, that there is a campaign against Barça for being Catalan and a rival of Real Madrid.
The president decided to speak without a script, as usual. With the sole exception of the moment when he read the conclusions of the external report of an office “that has acted with the utmost independence and transparency”. The text considers that “no conduct with criminal relevance linked to the crime of sports corruption has been identified”. He emphasizes that “the amount of the invoices is variable depending on the number of competitions that were analyzed”. And that, despite the fact that more old documentation is missing, since as a rule non-essential documents are destroyed in the field of five years of storage at the club, “629 technical arbitration reports and 43 CDs” from the period 2014-2018 have been found.
“The Negreira case wants to destroy one of Catalonia’s identity symbols”
Accompanied by the majority of the members of the board of directors, and also by high officials of the club, Laporta was particularly forceful when saying that Barcelona “is suffering a gigantic reputational defamation campaign due to information that has nothing to do with deal with reality”. The president constantly mentioned the boxes to justify the services provided. And he assured that the real objective of this case is “to destroy one of Catalonia’s identity symbols”.
Nor was he spared reproaches towards Real Madrid, whom he accused of “cynicism” for the fact that it was personified as a private performance; nor towards Javier Tebas for his “verbal incontinence”. In fact, Laporta said that the intervention of the president of the League in this case was explained solely by the fact that Barça refused to sign the agreement with CVC for the television rights. And about Madrid, he criticized that they felt offended by this case when, “for seven decades, the majority of leaders of the Technical Committee of Referees have been uninterruptedly ex-members, ex-managers or ex-players” of the white team.
Far from acknowledging that Barça did it wrong by hiring the services of Enríquez Negreira’s company, ex-referee and former vice-president of the CTA, Laporta went on the attack and went so far as to say that Barça has been a victim. He did so through one of the theses of the Prosecutor’s Office, which points to the possibility that the payments were not intended to alter the competition but to divert money from the club so that third parties could get rich. “If this hypothesis succeeds, Barça would be a victim, and I have already ordered the legal services to act.”
Laporta guards his words for the judicialization of the Negreira Case
Laporta held on to this possibility, although he did not go further to avoid saying things out of place. And the fact is that the president, a lawyer by profession, knows that in the middle of a judicial process you have to be very careful with your words. Of course, he justified his suspicions based on two documents. The first, that Enríquez Negreira himself said during the investigation that he did not know exactly why he had been hired and speculated, in a personal capacity, that perhaps it was to seek arbitration neutrality, but that “he never received any indication from of Barça”. The second, that the Treasury “has not been able to demonstrate” that any payment had to do with altering the competition. “They haven’t proven it and they won’t. Because that didn’t happen,” he said.
Laporta’s appearance lasted exactly two hours. However, some questions remain. Like, for example, why he went out to speak alone and not in the presence of the other former presidents (Gaspart, Rosell and Bartomeu) who ruled the club while the payments were being made. Nor are there any clues as to where the money that was deposited into Negreira’s account and that he withdrew quickly went to. Or why his successors kept the service until 2018, just the year he left his position at the CTA. “I can’t speak for third parties,” he justified. The only thing he argued was that, in 2010, his last year in office, the amount of the invoices multiplied “because more services were performed scouting“, and that a KPMG audit, carried out that year, corroborated it.
The Barcelona president has been as forceful with Tebas and with Real Madrid as he has been soft and elegant when he has referred to UEFA. Organization that has been praised for its “prudence”. UEFA is investigating the Negreira Case, and this could leave Barça out of European competitions. But Laporta has said that the inputs that he has are that we will wait for the trial to take place before making a decision. “And there will be no penalty because in the trial it will be proven that we did not buy referees.”
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