Barcelona’s Joan Laporta says he will not give La Liga chief executive Javier Tebas “what he’d like by stepping down” as president of the club.
On Monday, Tebas said Laporta should resign if he was unable to explain payments Barcelona made to Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, a former vice-president of Spain’s referees’ committee.
“That is for the club’s members to decide,” said Laporta on Tuesday, who was elected by a large majority of club members in March 2021. “Anyone who tries to tarnish the history and image of Barcelona will receive a strong response.”
Laporta also claimed Tebas was “obsessed” with his club.
The scandal around the payments escalated on Tuesday, with 18 of the 20 La Liga clubs issuing a statement to express “deep concern” over the situation.
Last Wednesday, it emerged Barca had made payments to a company owned by Negreira totalling a reported 1.4m euros (£1.2m) between 2016 and 2018.
It was later revealed the club had paid 77-year-old Negreira about 7m euros between 2001 and 2018, the year he left his role with the referees’ committee.
Barcelona are racing towards their first La Liga title in four years after taking an eight-point lead over Real Madrid, but the situation has cast a cloud over their season.
“The majority of La Liga clubs expressed their deep concern about this case, which they consider to be of the utmost seriousness,” read the statement issued by La Liga on behalf of the 18 clubs and all those from the second division.
“The proposal for a joint statement received the unanimous support of all [second division] clubs and all La Liga clubs except for two, who objected to this joint statement for different reasons.
“La Liga and the clubs’ executive committee reject and condemn the facts, and are deeply concerned and actively working to clarify any irregularities that may have occurred around the Negreira case, whether of a sporting or any other nature.”
How did we get here?
The payments, first revealed by radio station Ser Catalunya, came to light following an investigation by tax authorities into Negreira’s company Dasnil 95.
Barcelona acknowledged the club had paid the company, which it described as “an external technical consultant” to compile video reports related to professional referees “with the aim of complementing the information required by the coaching staff”.
It added that contracting the reports was “a habitual practice among professional clubs”.
The club also criticised the timing of the revelations, saying it “regrets that this information has appeared just while the team is enjoying its best moment of the season”.
Barcelona coach Xavi, who won eight La Liga titles with them as a player between 1998 and 2015, said he had no knowledge of the payments and never had the feeling his team had any advantage.
“I always wanted to win, but fairly. If I thought we were cheating I’d have gone home,” he said after Barca’s 2-2 draw with Manchester United in the Europa League.
Laporta fights back
Laporta said on Tuesday the club would launch an internal investigation into the payments.
But he also rounded on Tebas in the latest chapter of an escalating rift between the pair.
Since Laporta returned to the club, he and Tebas have had numerous disagreements, beginning with Barcelona’s role in the bid to launch the European Super League.
Laporta has also opposed the league’s financial controls, which led to Barca parting ways with Lionel Messi in 2021.
Barcelona, along with Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao, also declined to agree to the league’s deal with private equity firm CVC in 2021.
“Some had already warned us that it seemed Tebas was pushing a reputational campaign against Bara and against me,” Laporta added.
“The mask has come off. He continues with his obsession with Barca, with his fear of our club.
“His intention is to control Barca from a distance, which is what he has been doing in recent years.”