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‘Barcelona president justified closed-door match’

The referee’s remarks contradict a statement Sunday by FC Barcelona president Bartomeu.

IANS | Madrid |

The head referee of Spanish football league match between FC Barcelona and Las Palmas said Barça’s president had decided that the contest should be played behind closed doors because of security concerns.

On Sunday doubts arose whether the match would be played as scheduled due to turmoil over an independence referendum in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia that Spain’s Constitutional Court, the highest rung of the judiciary, had declared illegal, reports Efe news agency.

The referee, Jose Luis Munuera Montero, said after the contest, which Barça won 3-0, that FC Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu had told him and other match officials beforehand that he had decided to bar the public due to security concerns.

Munuera Montero also said in his post-match report that a spectator had invaded the field in the 71st minute before being removed by club security personnel.

The referee’s remarks contradict a statement Sunday by Bartomeu, who said the club’s decision to bar spectators was made not because of security concerns but rather to express its “support for all those who are suffering from this lack of freedom of expression.”

Catalan regional authorities said Sunday that 761 people had been injured due to security forces’ efforts to prevent the banned referendum from taking place.

Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said the regional parliament of Catalonia had banned the use of rubber bullets but that National Police appeared to have used them against civilians in Barcelona on Sunday.

For her part, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria praised the conduct of the Spanish police in trying to prevent the referendum from being held and said officers had acted proportionately.