Josep Maria Bartomeu says Barcelona made the decision to play Las Palmas behind closed doors on Sunday to show opposition to police violence against voters in Catalonia’s independence referendum – not because of safety concerns.
The La Liga champions ran out 3-0 winners at Camp Nou, with Sergio Busquets and Lionel Messi (2) getting the goals.
However, the stadium remained empty throughout as fans were locked out and not permitted to enter. That decision was only relayed to supporters outside the ground less than 30 minutes before the scheduled kick-off time.
Catalan officials said that more than 760 people were injured in clashes between police and people trying to vote in the referendum, which the national government declared illegal.
Barca tried to have the game postponed but were told by La Liga chiefs that there were no grounds to do so in the interests of safety. Subsequently, they faced a potential docking of six points had they decided not to play.
“This (playing without fans) was a measure to show our rejection of what took place today,” Bartomeu told BeIn Sports.
“This is not a security issue, the police gave us permission to play, but we wanted to show that this game was different because of everything that is happening in Catalonia and the lack of liberty we have been suffering from.
“We decided that instead of postponing the game, which is what we wanted, we’d play behind closed doors. That way we show our concern for the situation and send our support to those who have been unable to exercise the right to freedom of expression.”
The referendum has pitched the country into its deepest constitutional crisis in decades and re-opened wounds between Madrid and Barcelona.