FILE – In this August 6, 2021 file photo, Barcelona president Joan Laporta during a press conference in Barcelona. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort, file)

MADRID (AP) — The Spanish government’s top sporting authority said on Monday it would appear in the court case Barcelona has been facing for years over payments of millions of euros to a company owned by the former vice – Chairman of the Referees Committee.

José Manuel Franco, president of the Superior Sports Council (CSD), told the Telecinco channel that the government will join other accusing parties in the legal process against the club.

The CSD is the latest entity to announce its intention to act after the prosecution officially accused Barcelona on Friday of alleged corruption, fraudulent administration and falsification of documents. A court must agree if it pursues the complaint.

“The CSD’s intention is to appear, but at the right time,” Franco said. “It should not be forgotten that the prosecution filed a complaint before an investigative court. This court must admit it for processing and that will be when we, with our legal services, will appear in this case.”

Real Madrid announced after a board meeting on Sunday that they will also face their arch rivals, becoming the latest club to be alarmed by the scandal. Likewise, the Spanish League and the national football federation are considering doing so.

Barcelona have faced a flurry of questions since the club’s million dollar payments became known, initially investigated as part of a tax probe against the company of José María Enríquez Negreira, who was part of the committee of referees of the federation between 1994 and 2018.

The Catalan club insist they committed no crime or incurred any conflict of interest, claiming they paid for technical reports on the referees, but never tried to influence their decision during matches. matches.

After Real Madrid’s announcement, Barça president Joan Laporta said the club “is innocent of what it is accused of” and that it has been “victim of a campaign against its honor in which everything the world is now involved”. He added that “many will have to rectify”.

In court documents observed by The Associated Press, prosecutors claim that the club’s payments actually amounted to 7.3 million euros ($7.7 million) from 2001 to 2018. They added that ” this represented actual remuneration not provided for in the club’s statutes or approved by the general assembly, which is why a title was missing to justify it,” according to the documents.

No evidence has yet been found that referee performance or results have been influenced.

“This case worries me because Spanish sport is not good for him, it is bad for him,” Franco said. “A club does not pay the vice-president of referees for anything like that. It is true that we must investigate”.

“I would ask Barcelona for some kind of clarification, for them to say what happened. It may not be as bad as it looks, but the problem is very ugly and it worries us. and discredits Spanish sport and football.”

Barcelona extended their lead as Spanish league leaders to nine points over Madrid on Sunday after Athletic Bilbao’s equalizer was disallowed by VAR due to a controversial handball in the build-up to the game.

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