Barcelona confirm support for Catalonia independence vote

Barcelona have confirmed that they are supporting Catalonia's push to vote on secession from the rest of Spain, despite warnings that independence would mean the club's exclusion from La Liga.

Barcelona said in a statement on their official website: "FC Barcelona have signed the Catalan National Pact for Self -Determination. The club formalised their adhesion in a formal letter from president Josep Maria Bartomeu to the Pact co-ordinator Joan Rigol.

"The Pact brings together over 3,500 organisations and associations from a wide spectre range of social and political positions which endorse the Catalan people's right to self-determination."

Catalonia's regional government wants to hold a nonbinding referendum on independence on Nov. 9. A Spanish court has suspended the vote to rule on its legality.

There had been a feeling in the Spanish media that Barca had not been firm in their position on the matter previously, but the statement released on Friday added: "FC Barcelona has already signalled its position in favour of self-determination for Catalonia in a declaration made in the President's Report at the 2013 Members Representatives Meeting -- the maximum authority of the club.

"In that statement, then president Sandro Rosell explained: 'We will always be there for our country and for the will of its people. We defend the right to self-determination because that forms a part of the fundamental rights which all people and nations must have.'

"President Josep Maria Bartomeu has frequently referred to this statement of principles when questioned about the club's position over recent months."

On Tuesday, the president of the Spanish football league, Javier Tebas, said Barcelona and the other football teams in the northeastern region would be excluded from Spanish competitions if Catalonia became a separate state.

Tebas said the country's sports law entitles only one non-Spanish territory -- Andorra -- to legally participate in the league or other official competitions. If Catalonia were to gain independence, the law would have to be altered to let Catalan clubs, including Espanyol and second-division teams Girona and Sabadell, back in.

Secessionist sentiment has surged in Catalonia in recent years during Spain's economic stagnation, and Barcelona's Camp Nou has become a focal point of the movement, with pro-independence cheers a common feature during matches.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique recently attended a massive rally in Barcelona clamouring for the Nov. 9 vote, and former coach Pep Guardiola is an independence supporter.

Polls show that while most of the 7.5 million residents of Catalonia support the vote, only around half favor ending centuries-old ties with the rest of Spain.

In April, the Spanish parliament voted down a request by Catalonia to hold the referendum, but regional lawmakers went ahead with plans and formally called the referendum last month.

The Spanish government argues that such a vote would violate the Spanish Constitution's stipulation that only the national government can call referendums on sovereignty, and that all Spaniards are entitled to vote in such a ballot.

Legal experts expect the court to strike down the regional Catalan law that provided the legal backing for the referendum.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.