Catalan La Liga clubs join general strike as Barca ponder leaving
‘In case of independence, the club would have to decide in which league we would play’
FC Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu during a news conference at Camp Nou stadium. Photograph: Reuters
Catalan La Liga sides Barcelona, Espanyol and Girona have decided to join the general strike in Catalonia on Tuesday.
The strike, called by more than 40 unions and associations in the region under the umbrella organisation Table for Democracy, is due to Spanish police violently trying to prevent Catalans from voting in Sunday’s independence referendum, which was deemed illegal by the Spanish government.
More than 840 people needed medical assistance following violent charges by Spanish civil guard officers in ugly scenes as part of Spain’s deepest constitutional crisis for decades.
While many players from Barcelona’s first team will leave to join their national squads ahead of the upcoming international fixtures, the remaining players and club staff will not attend the training centre on Tuesday.
“FC Barcelona joins the country wide strike called for by the Table for Democracy and therefore the club will be closed tomorrow,” Barcelona tweeted on Monday.
“None of the professional teams or the youth teams at FC Barcelona will train tomorrow at the Ciutat Esportiva.”
There was an organised region-wide ‘standstill’ protest on Monday with workers across Catalonia stopping work for 15 minutes at midday, including employees at Barcelona club offices.
Espanyol and Girona, also based in Catalonia, released statements on Monday declaring their intentions to join the general strike as well.
In protest at the violent events on Sunday, Barcelona held their La Liga clash with Las Palmas behind closed doors, winning 3-0.
Meanwhile 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.
“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.”