Bartomeu warns Barca could leave La Liga as reality of Catalan suppression hits home

By Andrew Warshaw

October 3 – The Catalan independence movement continues to have a major impact on the region’s biggest club with Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealing they would consider playing outside the country if the campaign to split with Spain is successful.

“In the case of independence, the club and the members would have to decide in which league we would play,” Bartomeu told reporters after a board meeting.

“We are going through difficult and complicated moments and with respect to what could happen in the future we will take it on with calm and wisdom.”

Catalan sports minister Gerard Figueras last week said Barcelona may be able to play in another country should the region achieve independence.

“In the case of independence, Catalan teams in La Liga – Barcelona, Espanyol and Girona – will have to decide where they want to play: in the Spanish league or a neighbouring country like Italy, France or the (English) Premier League,” he said.

Bartomeu says he will complain to FIFA and UEFA after Barca were forced by La Liga to go ahead with their home game against Las Palmas last weekend despite rising tension across Catalonia.

Faced with a six-point deduction if it didn’t comply, the club had no choice but to play the game but announced just 20 minutes before the scheduled kick-off that it would be behind closed doors with 98,000 empty seats.

Bartomeu told Catalunya Radio: “We will ask for explanations because it is incomprehensible that they (La Liga) did not agree to suspend the game. We will take this as far as we can and there will be consequences.”

Bartomeu described the decision to play behind closed doors as “one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made,” and confirmed two directors, vice-president Carles Vilarrubi and Jordi Mones, had resigned.

“We tried to suspend the game all day long but it wasn’t possible. We could have lost points if we didn’t play so we decided to play behind closed doors as a way to show the entire world that we were not pleased with what happened.”

His players and staff were due to join a strike across Catalonia today along with the region’s two other La Liga clubs, Espanyol and Girona, though this will not affect any club games because it is international week.

Manchester City’s former Barca manager Pep Guardiola expressed similar sentiments about last weekend’s Las Palmas fixture. “Barcelona against Las Palmas should never have been played, not at all,” Guardiola told a local radio station. “In Catalonia they have injured a lot of people, people who only went to schools to vote. The images are not deceptive. There were people who went to vote and they were violently attacked.”

Meanwhile Barca stalwart Gerard Pique was booed and jeered by fans as he turned up for training with Spain for the first time since voicing his support for Catalan self-determination and offering to quit the national team.

Pique was in tears at the violence that marred the referendum campaign and described playing at an empty Nou Camp as the worst experience of his professional career.

“I am very proud of Catalonia and all of its people,” an emotional Pique said in a television interview. “Despite how much they are incited, and despite how much they (the Spanish authorities and security forces) want them to fall into the trap, they have demonstrated peacefully and sung loud and clear.”

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