FC Barcelona president pushes back in face of widespread criticism amid referee payment scandal

    The logo of FC Barcelona outside Camp Nou in Barcelona.

    (CNN)FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta is defiantly pushing back in the face of widespread criticism amid a referee payment scandal gripping Spanish football.

    The Barcelona Prosecutor's Office told CNN earlier this month that it was investigating Barça over allegations it made $1.5 million in payments over three years to a company owned by a then-leading official with Spain's referee committee, the CTA.
    Spanish radio station Cadena SER reported last week that the club made a series of payments to a company owned by José María Enríquez Negreira between 2016 and 2018. At the time, Enríquez Negreira was serving as the CTA's vice president.
      The CTA is the governing body responsible for deciding which referees and assistants officiate weekly matches in Spain. Barcelona's final payment was in June 2018, which coincided with Enríquez Negreira's departure from the CTA, according to Cadena SER.
        At a press conference on Tuesday, Laporta echoed the club's initial statement on the investigation, saying that hiring a consultant for referee reports and scouting is something every club does and was a service the club considered necessary to its success.
        Laporta -- who previously served as Barça president from June 2003 to June 2010 -- said an external lawyer and his team were carrying out a series of independent investigations for the club.
        He also said Spanish authorities haven't informed the club it's the subject of an investigation.
          The Barcelona prosecutor's office confirmed to CNN last week that an investigatio