-What does it mean that the UEFA has opened an investigation against Barça for the ‘Negreira case’?
-That you have been aware of the complaints that the RFEF forwarded to you and, in view of what is happening, the complaint by the Prosecutor’s Office and the summary, they understand that there are reasons to open an investigation. Now you must see if Barça’s conduct is contrary to its regulations, specifically point 4, which establishes as an admissibility criterion that no club has been involved in types of activities that tend to manipulate the result of the competition, either through national or international level. If UEFA understands that this has happened, it could leave Barça out of the Champions League.
–whatIt is feasible to leave Barça without Champions?
-To play the Champions you have to meet a series of sports requirements; in the case of Spain, to be among the first four. But you also have to meet many other requirements that are not sporting: comply with the financial Fair Play, with infrastructures (not all stadium teams have an X-star stadium, for example), with personnel…. In the end it is UEFA that invites you to its competition. If you don’t meet their requirements because you’ve been involved in match manipulation, UEFA can say: ‘I’m delighted that you’ve won La Liga, but you can’t play in the Champions League because you don’t meet some of my criteria.’
-If there is a sentence against Barça, what type of sanction is expected?
-If it is shown that Barça tried to buy or condition referees, the punishment of one year without playing in the Champions League is short. It would seem to me to get off scot-free. We would be talking about a scandal. It’s very serious.
-If an investigation is opened, is it because there are indications?
-There is a complaint. The inspectors will analyze whether there are signs of veracity or support and when they see that they do, they will open a file. If there is a false complaint, it is not opened directly. But when they see what is happening in Spain and that the FEF is involved in the cause, UEFA cannot look the other way.
-How long can this process take?
-In ordinary justice the procedures are very long, but in the sports field it is much shorter. In the court, in the criminal jurisdiction, the same goes on for years; In sports justice we talk about months. I don’t know if the decision will come before next season. I think so because there is time.
-Could Barça appeal?
-UEFA’s decision would always be appealable, yes, also to TAS. The club would request a precautionary suspension. That can delay it, but not much more. Half a year max. And maybe less. An expedited procedure can be opened in the TAS. This means that if there is a decision by UEFA in June or July and Barça requests the precautionary suspension, the parties can request that there be an expedited procedure to resolve it before the Champions League draw. If so, maybe we have a solution before August. If Barça requested the injunction very late and delayed it, maybe they would play the next Champions League but maybe not the next. Timing is essential. Depending on when there is a decision from UEFA, the scenario is one or the other.
What do the previous precedents suggest to you?
-There is a lot of indication, but there is no proof. If it cannot be proven, it cannot be sanctioned. Who else who least thinks that this is strange or that it has not been explained well. From there to affirming that the competition has been manipulated, there is a step. That is where the core is and it will be what unlocks the criminal and sporting situation. Then there’s the fact that it’s unethical, of course. The amounts are not reasonable. There are clues. What’s more, if Negreira said that Barça had paid him to have neutral arbitrations, it already means a crime. Although he did not want to buy referees, he was already conditioning them. Everyone thinks there’s something weird, but you have to try it. Without evidence you cannot convict.