Barcelona president defends decision to play Las Palmas game behind closed doors

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has defended the decision to play Sunday’s match against Las Palmas behind closed doors.

The LaLiga leaders played at an empty Nou Camp after a request to have the game postponed, amid widespread political unrest and violence in Catalonia, was turned down.

News the game would go ahead was communicated just 20 minutes before the scheduled kick-off with thousands of supporters locked out.

Across the region around 850 people were injured in clashes with police as the people of Catalonia voted in an independence referendum which had been declared illegal by the Spanish government.

Barcelona’s decision has attracted criticism from both sides of the independence debate but Bartomeu is convinced it was the best way for the club to protest against the actions of police and government.

Bartomeu said in a statement: “Yesterday we expressed our rejection and vehement condemnation of the serious events that we experienced in our country, with abusive and indiscriminate use of force to prevent millions of people from exercising the right to vote.

“In this context, here at FC Barcelona we decided that we had to take some kind of measure to show our indignation to the world.

“I finally decided that we would play the game, but as an exceptional measure, behind closed doors.

“We perfectly understand that many of our members and fans would have preferred the option of calling off the match. That is why I must say that this was one of the most difficult decisions that I have ever had to make as Barca president.

“We very seriously considered the option of postponing the game, but we could not get the Liga de Futbol Profesional to approve our request.

“Having reached that point, I decided to play behind closed doors because we believed that the image of a football match being played in a completely empty Camp Nou would have been an act of responsibility and would have been a way of showing how we utterly reject the exceptional and inadmissible situation going on around Catalonia.”

Barcelona could have faced a six-point penalty had they opted not to play the game, which they won 3-0.

Bartomeu added that as “a club of such global scope” Barca would continue to take a forthright stance on such matters.

Former Barca manager Pep Guardiola was among those to have criticised the decision to play.

The Catalan, who is now at Manchester City, told Catalunya Radio and RAC1: “I wouldn’t have played the Barca-Las Palmas game, not at all.

“And if it did have to be played, then not behind closed doors. You do it with the public there. With all the consequences.”

Bartomeu also confirmed two directors, vice-president Carles Vilarrubi and Jordi Mones, had resigned following an extraordinary general meeting on Monday.

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