Barcelona face UEFA probe over Catalan flags

Barcelona fans wave 'Estelada' flags during a match against Real Madrid. Picture: Getty
Barcelona fans wave 'Estelada' flags during a match against Real Madrid. Picture: Getty
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BARCELONA are facing a UEFA probe after fans displayed pro-Catalan independence flags during the Champions League final in June.

The ‘Estelada’ is an unofficial flag flown by those in favour of Catalonia’s independence.

During Barcelona’s 3-1 win over Juventus on June 6th, a number of supporters of the club, which has strong ties to Catalan nationalism, displayed pro-independence flags in the stands while chanting slogans in support of Catalan autonomy.

A UEFA spokesman told Agence France-Presse: “A disciplinary proceeding has been opened against FC Barcelona for illicit banner use and chanting.

“The case will be decided during the next control, ethics and disciplinary meeting on July 23.”

European football’s governing body has strict rules concerning the use of ‘symbols, actions or songs that are not within the context of a sports event’, with particular emphasis on ‘messages of a political, ideological, religious, offensive and provocative nature.’

Barcelona could face a €50,000 fine and partial stadium closure if the club is found to have violated UEFA’s guidelines.

The club will appeal UEFA’s decision, with a spokesman saying respect for freedom of expression of its fans would be at the centre of Barcelona’s argument against the disciplinary proceedings.

Barcelona supported the symbolic referendum on Catalan independence that took place last November, against the wishes of the Madrid government.

Club president Joan Laporta told Spanish publication AS: “My project is catalanista and committed to the idea of it being a country in every sense.

“If Catalonia becomes independent Barca won’t be lost in the world. We’re committed to the process of Catalonia becoming independent.”

During Barcelona’s 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey in May, supporters from both sides booed and jeered the Spanish national anthem.

Athletic Bilbao play their home matches in the Basque Country, also has an active independence movement.

Following the match, the office of Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy issued a statement slamming ‘attacks against symbols that represent all Spaniards.”