Barcelona fans' group: Pro-Catalan flag support 'unjust'; Bartomeu must stop

A Barcelona supporters' group has called on club president Josep Maria Bartomeu to stop supporting the flying of "estelada" pro-Catalan independence flags at the Camp Nou.

Barca have been fined a total of €70,000 in recent months by UEFA as the governing body has ruled that the "esteladas" brought into stadiums by fans in last season's Champions League final against Juventus and this term's Group A game against Bayer Leverkusen were unacceptable political symbols.

The club have reacted angrily to these sanctions, with Bartomeu and other board members talking regularly about defending the "fundamental human rights" of supporters to behave as they wished and enjoy "freedom of speech" while attending games.

But a group called "Blaugrana al Vent" ("Blue and scarlet in the wind" -- a line from the club's anthem) has been formed who say that not all Barca fans agree with such pro-Catalan independence feelings, and want the club's board to take their views into account too.

Group spokesperson Sixto Jose Cadenas issued a statement saying pro-independence symbols offended some Barca fans, and called on the board to stop using the football club to "play politics."

"We ask president Bartomeu to fix this and defend all 'socis,'" the statement said. "We are many people who do not want political symbols or messages at our games, and his comments are not true that we are not offended by these symbols in the stadiums. It is unnecessary and unjust to take advantage of Barca games to play politics."

It seems this request has not been listened to, as reports on Catalan radio -- picked up by AS -- say the club plan to hand out 20,000 mini plastic "estelada" flags to fans attending next Wednesday's home Champions League group game against BATE Borisov at the Camp Nou.

Catalan flags have long been flown at Barca games, but there is a distinction between the pro-independence "estelada" [which has red and yellow stripes and features a white star on a blue triangle] and the more neutral "senyera" [which also has red and yellow stripes, but with a red star on a yellow triangle].

The current dispute with UEFA has come amid ongoing arguments between the pro-independence Catalan regional parliament and the centralist Madrid government, with neither side wanting to back down in the wake of recent Catalan regional elections and ahead of a Spanish general election in December.

Former Barca president Joan Laporta does not believe that the European champions will end up quitting La Liga for France's Ligue 1 should Catalonia gain independence.