UPDATE 2-Soccer-Barcelona to finish paying stadium revamp debt 5 years earlier under new terms

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MADRID, April 6 (Reuters) – Barcelona will finish repaying the debt taken on to finance a revamp of their stadium five years earlier than previously agreed after renegotiating a 1.5 billion euro ($1.6 billion) financial plan with Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, according to reports in Spanish news website El Confidencial and newspaper La Vanguardia on Thursday.

The interest rate will be 5.5%, according to the reports, although the club has insisted on being able to refinance the loan after five years, with the aim of renegotiating and lowering the rate once the stadium is up and running.

Under the new terms, Barca committed to making the final repayment in 2047 instead of 2052.

Club sources told Reuters on Thursday “this is a very complex operation and as soon as it is formalised, we will make an announcement”.

The renegotiation came amid a refereeing scandal involving Barcelona, which UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin on Monday called “one of the most serious” incidents in football.

UEFA opened a formal investigation into Barcelona last month for potential violation of the European soccer governing body’s legal framework regarding payments made by the club to a company owned by a senior refereeing official.

The alleged payments of 7.3 million euros ($7.96 million) were made by Barcelona from 2001 to 2018 to firms owned by Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, then-vice president of the refereeing committee of the Spanish Football Association.

In a statement in February the club denied any wrongdoing, saying it had paid an external consultant who supplied it with technical reports related to professional refereeing, which it claimed was a common practice among professional football clubs. (Reporting by Corina Pons; Writing by Jessica Jones and David Latona; Editing by Robert Birsel and Toby Davis)