(Corrects to make clear match took place in Valencia, crowd was shown during much of broadcast)
MADRID, May 14 (Reuters) - Spain’s state television sacked its head of sports coverage on Thursday, saying it was a mistake not to have shown a soccer crowd from Catalonia and the Basque Country booing the Spanish national anthem during the country’s Cup final.
The move by Television Espanola to break away from coverage at the stadium in Valencia when the anthem was booed before Wednesday’s match was widely interpreted as an attempt to censor the behaviour of the fans of Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao.
The regions of Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, and the Basque country surrounding the city of Bilbao have separatist movements which want independence. A large banner held up by Barcelona supporters in the stadium read: “We are nations of Europe, goodbye Spain.”
The booing of the national anthem was particularly insulting to Spanish nationalists because of the presence in the stadium of King Juan Carlos.
Television Espanola boss Javier Pons told reporters the anthem had been omitted by mistake and there was no censorship. He said the station tried to rectify the error by broadcasting the anthem at half-time.
“Nonetheless this was an extremely serious mistake,” said Pons, explaining the decision to get rid of sport news chief Julian Reyes, who has not made any comment to the media.
Barcelona won 4-1. (Reporting by Teresa Larraz; writing by Jason Webb; editing by Michael Roddy)