A political row is breaking out in Spain as the Spanish government has decided to ban the Catalan Estelada flag from Sunday’s Copa Del Rey Final. There is perennial tension between Catalan Independence supporters and the Spanish political establishment in Madrid, with many pro-Independence Catalans historically having stood behind the famous blaugrana and tried to use the club as a political vehicle to support their cause. This, in their eyes, is the latest snub to their campaign.
Mariano Rajoy’s caretaker government has enforced a law which states that items conducive to acts of violence or which express contempt for other people are prohibited from sporting events. Subsequently it has banned FC Barcelona fans from entering Spain’s Copa Del Rey final at Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderon Stadium carrying the Catalan separatist flag, known as the Estelada.
Spanish Government Bans Catalan Estelada Flag
Police present at the match between Barcelona and Sevilla FC have been told to search all Barca fans entering the stadium to ensure no Estelada’s are present; although the Catalan national flag, the Senyara, will be allowed.
The government have argued previously that the Estelada should be prohibited in stadiums as it can ‘provoke a violent reaction in some groups of fans’.
Javier Tebas, the La Liga President is in support of the ban.
Spanish daily paper, AS, reports Tebas as saying, “I respect and understand the decision of the government delegate. Remember, this is the Copa del Rey, the Copa de Espana, and the Estelada is a symbol that advocates the break-up of Spain.”
In response on Thursday, FC Barcelona issued a statement:
‘FC Barcelona has today filed an administrative appeal to the Madrid Courts for the protection of fundamental rights and a request for a preliminary injunction to suspend the decision that was announced by the delegate of the Community of Madrid. This resolution prohibits the display of Estelada flags at the Copa del Rey final which will take place on Sunday 22 May at the Vicente Calderon stadium, between FC Barcelona and Sevilla.
‘The legal basis of the appeal presented today by the Club is the violation of the fundamental right to freedom of expression and the lack of grounds for the measure because it presupposes a desire to be offensive with the use of the Estelada flags.
‘With actions such as these, FC Barcelona defends, and will continue to defend, freedom of expression of its members and supporters.’
In solidarity with the club, the Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, has stated he will not attend Sunday’s match in protest at the decision. He told El Pias, “I cannot participate in the final of La Copa Del Rey until there is respect for the freedom of expression of the Barça fans who want to go there with Esteladas. This is very offensive.”
At last years’ final between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao, the Spanish national anthem was booed and jeered by supporters of both sides. This is expected to be the case again from the Barcelona section of fans, especially in the presence of King Filipe, who is due to be in attendance and will present the trophy.
Barcelona have been in trouble with football authorities previously, as a fine was issued to the club after Eselada’s were present and waved by fans during a UEFA Champions League match.
This is more than a football row, as it again highlights the growing level of feeling in Catalonia towards Catalan nationalism. But, as many times seen historically, the grand institution that is FC Barcelona is again dragged into political sphere, whereas it would much prefer to be left to concentrate of matters on the pitch, not off it. It really is ‘Mes Que Un Club’.