MADRID (Reuters) - Barcelona and its members would have to decide which soccer league to play in if Catalonia gained independence from Spain, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu said on Monday.
The Catalan club played behind closed doors at the Nou Camp on Sunday, beating Las Palmas 3-0 in La Liga, as a protest against Spain using force to prevent voters taking part in a banned referendum to decide the region’s fate.
More than 840 people needed medical attention after riot police clashed with some of those attempting to participate in the controversial vote on secession, which the Spanish government had ruled illegal.
“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 from Spain.
“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 also said he had accepted the resignations of Barcelona vice-president Carles Vilarrubi and director Jordi Mones, who opposed the decision to play behind closed doors.
“Today the board has accepted the resignation of vice-president Carles Vilarrubi and Barca Innovation Hub chief Jordi Mones,” he said.
“We thank both of them for their dedication during all their years of service to the club.”
Bartomeu said choosing to play without fans was one of the hardest decisions he has had to make as the club’s president, since taking over from Sandro Rosell in January 2014.
”We perfectly understand that many of our members and fans would have preferred the option of calling off the match,“ said Bartomeu. ”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 Professional Football League (LFP) to approve our request,” he added referring to the national body that runs La Liga.
“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 a responsible action and a way of showing how we utterly reject the exceptional and inadmissible situation going on around Catalonia.”
Barcelona, Espanyol and Girona all announced on Monday that they would be joining a region-wide general strike in Catalonia on Tuesday, Oct. 3 following the weekend’s events.
Reporting by Rik Sharma; Editing by Christian Radnedge