Uefa launch investigation into Barcelona's referee payment scandal
Uefa has launched an official investigation into the allegations that Barcelona made payments to a former vice-president of Spain's referees' committee.
Spanish Reports last month claimed the Catalan club paid companies owned by Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira 7 million euros (£6.2 million) between 2001 and 2018.
Negreira was the vice-president of the Spanish football federation's refereeing committee from 1993-2018 and the Catalan club could face corruption charges in court over the allegations after Spanish prosecutors filed a complaint earlier this month.
But now their place in future Champions League competitions could be at risk as football's European governing body has announced it will also be investigating the claims.
After a rule change in 2007, Champions League regulations allow Uefa to ban teams from the competition for one season if they were involved in fixing matches.
Proof of fixed matches over the last 16 years could see Uefa hand Barcelona a one year ban and open up a prosecute a a disciplinary case.
A statement on Thursday read: "In accordance with article 31(4) of the UEFA disciplinary regulations, Uefa ethics and disciplinary inspectors have today been appointed to conduct an investigation regarding a potential violation of Uefa's legal framework by FC Barcelona in connection with the so-called 'Caso Negreira'."
Barcelona have previously denied wrongdoing and a statement from the club said they had paid an external consultant for "technical reports related to professional refereeing", arguing it was common practice in the game.
President Joan Laporta said: "Barca have never bought referees nor influence. That was never the intention and that has to be clear. The facts contradict those that are trying to tell a different story."
Barcelona are currently 12 points clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga with Xavi closing in as his first title as a manager of his former club.