30,000 Catalan independence flags to be displayed at Barcelona vs. Celtic Champions League match
The Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Òmnium Cultural, the Platform Pro Catalan Sports Selections and the group of jurists ‘Drets’ (‘Rights’) will distribute 30,000 Catalan pro-independence flags at the Champions League match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC taking place this Tuesday at Camp Nou. The initiative comes after UEFA’s €30,000 fine of FC Barcelona for the displaying of these flags during the Champions League final in Berlin last year. According to the Union of European Football Associations, the fine was issued because it officially condemns in Article 16.2 of its Disciplinary Regulations "the use of gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly messages that are of a political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature".
Barcelona (CNA).- Supporters attending the Champions League match between FC Barcelona and Celtic FC this Tuesday will find dozens of volunteers in front of the Camp Nou stadium distributing ‘estelades’, Catalonia’s pro- independence flag. This action, organised by the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Òmnium Cultural, the Platform Pro Catalan Sports Selections and the group of jurists ‘Drets’ aims to protest against the €30,000 fine that UEFA issued to FC Barcelona for displaying ‘estelades’ during the Champions League final in Berlin last year. UEFA alleged that the sanction was imposed because its Disciplinary Regulations condemn “the use of gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly messages that are of a political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature".
The pro-independence associations are calling for supporters to display the flags as the players come onto the pitch and 17 minutes and 14 seconds into the first and second half, a symbolic time evoking the year in which Catalonia was military defeated by Bourbon troops. They have also encouraged fans to bring their own Catalan independence flags to complement the action.
The promoters of the initiative stated that the action aims to defend freedom of expression and the symbols of the Catalan people, including the Catalan independence flag that "no law forbids". They also pointed out that before the last final of the Copa del Rey in Madrid, between FC Barcelona and Sevilla, the delegate of the Spanish government in Madrid, Concepcion Dancausa, issued a resolution which sought to ban the carrying of Catalan independence flags into the stadium and that the judicial system accepted the precautionary measures demanded by the organisation ‘Drets’ (‘Rights’) in order to suspend this ban.
The organisers of the initiative consider "incomprehensible" the attitude of UEFA concerning a symbol that is "totally legal" in Spain and regretted the €30,000 sanction issued by the federation for the displaying of Catalan independence flags during the Champions League final in Berlin and the fine €150,000 fine for displaying Catalan independence flags at Camp Nou Champions League matches throughout last season.
Barça already appealed the sanction
The sanctions have already been appealed in court. FC Barcelona claimed that it had not given any instruction to their supporters about which flags they should show and that the supporters are individual citizens using their freedom of expression, with flags and banners that are neither violent nor discriminate against anyone.
Earlier this year, FC Barcelona’s President Josep Maria Bartomeu defended “freedom of speech and opinion” and emphasised that Barça “is a democratic club”. Vice-president Jordi Mestre also gave his opinion on UEFA’s decision to fine FC Barcelona for the presence of Catalan independence flags at Camp Nou during the game against Bayer Leverkusen. “We are surprised. We will appeal against the decision, and if necessary, we will take legal advice. We will battle until the end and we do not understand why UEFA would treat us like this for something that does not incite violence”, Mestre said.
Spanish Government’s tried to ban ‘estelades’ in May
In a similar sense, the Spanish government’s Delegate in Madrid, Concepción Dancausa, warned in May that those supporters who attend the Copa del Rey final between FC Barcelona and Sevilla F.C carrying pro-independence flags won’t be able to access the stadium. Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, described the prohibition as “a grave attack on freedom of expression” and assured that he won't attend the final until the right of expression of Barça’s supporters is respected”. Soon afterwards, the judge Jesus Torres lifted the veto to the ‘estelades’ and doubted that displaying them “could lead to violence”, as Dancausa assured.