MADRID (Reuters) - Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu confirmed on Saturday the club wishes to continue playing in La Liga even if Catalonia is granted independence from Spain.
The Spanish government is holding a special cabinet meeting to deal with the crisis after Catalonia’s president Carles Puigdemont wrote Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy a letter threatening a formal declaration of independence.
Bartomeu previously said the club members would be able to help decide Barcelona’s future but speaking at the annual general meeting, the president was clear about his preferred option.
“You can be sure that this board will always act in the club’s defence,” said Bartomeu.
“We will never put the club nor its presence in any competition at risk. That’s why, to all the socios (members), I say that we want to continue playing in La Liga and, as of today, our participation [in La Liga] is guaranteed.
“It’s mutually beneficial for La Liga and Barcelona for that link to continue.”
Bartomeu reiterated the club’s call for “dialogue, respect and sport”, a phrase which they displayed on a giant banner before their Champions League victory over Olympiakos on Wednesday.
The president expressed his disapproval at the arrest of two leaders of the Catalan independence movement, Catalan National Assembly (ANC) head Jordi Sanchez and independence group Omnium’s leader Jordi Cuixart.
“We know that Barca is ‘more than a club’ and must be a space for harmony and respect,” added Bartomeu. “There must be respect for everyone, minorities and majorities, to think what they things, all institutions and people.
“For that reasons, it’s unacceptable that in this century there are people in prison for their political ideas.”
The club also confirmed their predicted forecast of a record revenue of 897 million euros ($1 billion) for the 2017-18 season and said they were making good progress in negotiations to find a sponsor for Camp Nou, which they are planning to rebuild.
“The renovation of Camp Nou is essential to achieve new income for the club,” explained Bartomeu.
“In that regard, negotiations to find a company to sponsor the stadium are going well.”
Reporting by Rik Sharma, editing by Ed Osmond