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posted by Morning Star in Sport

Barca play behind closed doors due to police riot against Catalans

The club had asked the Spanish football authorities to postpone the fixture, citing the unusual circumstances.

But when Barcelona’s request was rejected by the Madrid-based Liga de Futbol Profesional, the club took the remarkable step of playing the top-flight fixture in an empty Nou Camp — winning 3-0.

Attempts to shut down the polls by Spain’s Guardia Civil led to violent scenes described by Catalonia President Carles Puigdemont as “unwarranted, irrational and irresponsible.”

Amid rising tensions in Barcelona, the two clubs looked like stoking the match into a political occasion, as Las Palmas had the Spanish flag embroidered prominently onto their match shirts to state their support for a united country.

Given the chaotic events occurring elsewhere in the city, Barcelona felt it was wrong to be playing a football match.

“We deeply regret all that is happening today in Catalonia. It saddens us and we are all affected by it,” club president Josep Maria Bartomeu said.

Bartomeu added that the local Catalan police — the Mossos — had assured Barca the game could go ahead normally, in terms of security being assured.

But the club decided to turn down the option of opening the gates as normal to a bumper crowd, instead taking a stand against the football authorities for refusing to accept the postponement request and threatening the club with a points deduction.

“Playing this way, with the stadium empty, the club shows its disagreement,” said Bartomeu.

“The league told us we would lose six points, three from today and three as a penalty.”

Barcelona emerged to an empty stadium in yellow and red shirts, the colours of Catalonia, before changing to their standard blue and red home kit for kick-off.

After hours of uncertainty, Barcelona had earlier released a statement which read: “FC Barcelona condemns the events which have taken place in many parts of Catalonia today in order to prevent its citizens exercising their democratic right to free expression.”

According to Spanish reports, the usual pre-match meal between directors of the home and away clubs at the Nou Camp was cancelled, amid friction between the two camps.

Las Palmas had made their position clear in an emotive statement released in the morning.

It read: “Public pronouncements in recent days, especially those of our host FC Barcelona, have made this official Liga match more than a sporting event.

“Las Palmas could have been limited to being a silent witness of this historical crossroads or to take sides. We’ll take the second.”

The Canary Islands club said they have “never felt the least temptation to be part of a country other than this.”