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Graham Hunter | 'Barcagate cou...
Soccer

Graham Hunter | 'Barcagate could be club's biggest ever scandal'

Neil Treacy
Neil Treacy

13:22 2 Mar 2021

Graham Hunter says Barcelona are potentially facing the club's biggest ever scandal, after the arrest of former club president Josep Maria Bartomeu yesterday.

Bartomeu, as well as three other individuals - CEO Oscar Grau, Bartomeu's former adviser Jaume Masferrer, and head legal counsel Roman Gomez Ponti - were arrested yesterday as part of the ongoing investigation into allegations of corruption.

They are also being investigated for paying PR company 13 Ventures to arrange favourable media coverage of the former president, and critical coverage of club legends Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Xavi.

Renowned Spanish football journalist and author Graham Hunter joined Ger and Eoin on this morning's OTB AM and outlined the background to these allegations, which led to yesterday's police raid and arrests.

"This is a year-long police and judicial investigation. This started almost exactly a year ago when a local radio station reported that a group of senior directors and one non-director had engaged in paying, secretly paying (to 13 Ventures), and breaking up huge payments into smaller payments that it could slip through the governance system at the club.

"There's a real implication that this is not FC Barcelona per se, but a group within the club. They allegedly paid a firm to besmirch various figures, including potential presidential candidates, Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, plus Xavi."

If found guilty, Hunter says the allegations are so serious they may carry jail time for those involved, adding that it could lead to lasting reputational damage to the club.

"They're only in front of a judge today, they're innocent until proven guilty, but the burden of evidence against them is growing that there was outright malfeasance against their own players.

"The concept of what they're accused of doing is brutally wrong. To do it against your own footballers, as you're expecting them to win trophies, and asking them to take significant paycuts - if proven - then I don't believe there's been a bigger scandal in the history of the club.

"It's utterly inbecilic, as well as disgraceful, the idea that so many years after Watergate, the idea that you can do something to try and tamper with the climate in order to push favoritism your way, and do so via a company, sneak payments out, in order to create feeling that might help the outgoing board nominate a successor... that concept seems to me to be inbecilic," he added.

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