Sports Lawyer Toni Roca explains what the UEFA investigation into FC Barcelona and the Negreira case means

Sports lawyer Toni Roca has sat down with Diario AS to explain the significance of UEFA’s investigation into FC Barcelona and the Negreira case, as well as possible penalties the club could face if found guilty.

What does it mean to say that UEFA has opened an investigation into Barça and the Negreira case?

This means that the RFEF (Spanish Football Federation) reported FC Barcelona and after seeing what happened, from the prosecutor’s brief, they understand that there are motives to open an investigation.

Now they have to see if Barça’s actions violate their rules: point 4, to be precise, which establishes a criterion that no club can take part in actions that manipulate the outcome of a match at national or international level.

If UEFA decides this is the case, they could kick Barça out of the Champions League.

Xavi Hernández and Sergio Busquets chat during a game at the Camp Nou.Gorka LeizaDiarioAS

Is it possible to knock FC Barcelona out of the Champions League?

In order to be able to play in the Champions League, you have to meet certain sporting requirements; In the case of Spain, you need to finish in the top four in LaLiga. But non-sporting requirements must also be met: compliance with Financial Fair Play, infrastructure (e.g. a modern stadium), certain employees, etc.

At the end of the day, it’s UEFA who invites you to their competition. If you don’t meet the requirements because you’ve set matches, UEFA can simply tell you: “It’s really nice that you won the league, but you don’t play in the Champions League because you didn’t play by my rules‘.

If Barca are charged, what kind of punishment could they face?

If it turns out that Barça tried to buy or condition referees, a year without the Champions League would not be enough. I think they would get off lightly. We’re talking about a scandal. It’s very serious.

FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta has repeatedly claimed the club is innocent.GORKJA LEIZADiarioAS

Was the preliminary investigation opened because there were indications of it?

The investigations have been opened because the club was reported. The inspectors will analyze whether there is anything wrong and if they do, they will open the case. If there is a false report from the club then they automatically do not open the case. But after seeing what is happening in Spain and that the RFEF have emerged, UEFA cannot turn a blind eye.

How long could that take?

The procedures in ordinary justice are very long, but in sport they are much shorter. It goes from years on a regular pitch to months in the sport. I don’t know if the decision will be made before next season. I think so because there is time.

Can Barca appeal?

UEFA’s decision can be appealed at any time by Barça and the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport). The club would apply for a suspension. That might dilute it, but not by much: six months at most, and maybe less. CAS could open an accelerated procedure.

That would mean that if UEFA comes to a verdict in June or July and Barça asks for a suspension, the parties could apply to CAS for an accelerated procedure so that the final decision can be made before the Champions League draw.

If that were the case, we might get a solution before August. And if Barça requested a suspension but it was late or delayed, they could play in the upcoming Champions League but not the one after. Timing is essential. It’s one scenario or the other, depending on when there’s a UEFA decision.

What do the precedents say?

There is a lot of evidence, but no evidence. If you can’t prove anything, you can’t punish. If that sounds strange, it wasn’t explained well enough. Going from having evidence to claiming referees were rigged is a big step. That is the heart of the problem and will unlock everything from a sporting and legal point of view.

The amount of evidence is irrelevant. There is evidence. If Negreira said Barça paid him to have neutral referees, that’s a crime. Although not purchased as such, they are conditioned nonetheless. Everyone thinks there is something strange, but you have to prove it. You can’t accuse anyone without evidence.

Liga Santander 2022/2023

*Data updated to March 24, 2023

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