Barcelona, Spain | AFP | Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu confirmed on Monday two of the club’s board members resigned in the wake of his decision to play a match behind closed doors after a violent crackdown by police of an independence referendum for Catalonia on Sunday.
Police fired rubber bullets and forced their way into polling stations, often violently removing activists, to confiscate ballots leaving at least 92 people confirmed injured out of a total of 844 who needed medical attention, according to Catalan authorities.
In light of the incidents, Barca played their match against Las Palmas behind closed doors with Bartomeu insisting that decision was made as a protest against the violence rather than security concerns.
“Today the board of directors has accepted the resignations of vice-president Carles Vilarrubi and the commissioner of the Barca Innovation Hub, Jordi Mones,” Bartomeu told a press conference after an extraordinary board meeting.
Vilarrubi and Mones are believed to have been in favour of Barca refusing to play, even if it meant incurring a sporting sanction of forfeiting the match against Las Palmas and being docked a further three points by La Liga.
Barca attempted to have the match postponed, but their request was rejected by La Liga as Catalan police insisted it was safe for the match to go ahead.
“We perfectly understand that many of our members and fans would have preferred the option of calling off the match,” added Bartomeu.
A section of Barca fan groups had threatened a peaceful pitch invasion to interrupt the match.
“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 way of showing how we utterly reject the exceptional and inadmissible situation going on in Catalonia.”
Bartomeu also confirmed that Barcelona will join a general strike called across Catalonia on Tuesday in protest at the police crackdown.
“The board of directors has decided to support the call for strike action tomorrow led by Taula per la Democracia. The club shall cease all activities for the whole day and none of the professionals or amateur teams will train.”
The vast majority of Barcelona’s stars, including five-time world player of the year Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique, who has been an outspoken defender of Catalonia’s right to self-determination, wouldn’t have trained with Barca on Tuesday in any case as they are on international duty with their respective nations.