Barcelona reiterate right to fly Catalan independence flags at UCL matches

Barcelona have emphasised the need for UEFA's rules to evolve as they await a decision on their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against sanctions for the flying of estelada flags at Camp Nou.

European football's governing body have fined Barca on more than one occasion for the presence of the Catalan independence flags at Champions League games.

The first time was after the final in Berlin in 2015, when Luis Enrique's side beat Juventus to win the trophy, with further cases following games against Bayer Leverkusen, Bate Borisov and AC Roma last season.

While esteladas have been present at other matches since then, too, UEFA have only opened a file on those occasions without adding further sanctions.

"FC Barcelona have reiterated the right to freedom of expression on behalf of their members and fans and have argued that the flags are not offending anybody," a statement explained of the club's legal representatives' appearance in Lausanne.

"The club have emphasised the need for UEFA's rules to evolve along the assumption that the right to freedom of expression is allowed as long as it is done in a peaceful manner.

"During the appeal, which lasted three-and-a-half hours, the court showed an interest in the historical development of these symbols at Camp Nou."

Undeterred by the ongoing debate surrounding the matter, Barca supporters brought the flags out before their Champions League game against Celtic in September, revealing them and jeering loudly when UEFA's Champions League anthem began to be played.

UEFA say the esteladas are guilty of "transmitting messages of a political nature," and Barcelona have encountered problems domestically as well as in Europe.

Spanish police had originally banned them from being allowed at last season's Copa del Rey final between Barca and Sevilla, before Spanish courts overturned the prohibition.

Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu has been cautious with his public comments, but has said that his ultimate aim is to change UEFA's statutes so that the flying of esteladas or other similar symbols will no longer be an offence.

Catalan flags have long been flown at Barcelona games, however there is a distinction between the pro-independence estelada, which normally features a white star on a blue triangle, and the more neutral Senyera, the official flag of the Catalan government, which has no star.