UEFA give Barcelona provisional clearance to play in Europe amid refereeing scandal

Barcelona's players celebrate at the end of the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, March 19, 2023. Barcelona won 2-1. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)
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BARCELONA (Reuters) – LaLiga champions Barcelona have been provisionally cleared to compete in next season’s Champions League, European soccer’s governing body UEFA said on Thursday, amid investigations into the Spanish club’s involvement in a refereeing scandal.

Spanish prosecutors in March filed a complaint over alleged payments Barcelona made from 2001 to 2018 totalling 7.3 million euros ($8.02 million) to firms owned by former refereeing official Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira.

A Barcelona court has agreed to take on the case.

UEFA also opened a formal investigation into Barcelona earlier this year for potential violation of the body’s legal framework.

“FC Barcelona is provisionally admitted to take part in the 2023-24 UEFA club competitions. A future decision on admission/exclusion from the UEFA club competitions is reserved,” UEFA said in a statement.

“FC Barcelona is obliged to keep the Ethics and Disciplinary Inspectors (EDI) informed of the progress of the ongoing investigations proactively and to provide the EDIs with all the documents and information they request.

“The EDIs in charge of the case are invited to continue and finalise their investigation and to send a further report to the UEFA Appeals Body if and when they consider that the admission/exclusion of FC Barcelona should be assessed.”

Barcelona crashed out at the group stage of Europe’s top club competition last season and were then knocked out of the Europa League by Manchester United.

They have won the Champions League five times, last lifting the trophy in 2015.