With anti-government, pro-independence protests raging in Catalonia this week, La Liga decided on Friday to postpone the upcoming league match between Barcelona and Real Madrid, which was set to be held on October 26 in Barcelona. No date has been given for the rescheduled match, though both clubs have proposed December 18 as an alternative.
The recent outbreak of protests kicked off after the Spanish Supreme Court sentenced nine pro–Catalan independence leaders to prison on Monday. The leaders were convicted of sedition and given prison sentences ranging from nine to 13 years. Shortly after the decision became public, pro-independence protesters clashed with police at the Barcelona airport, effectively shutting it down. There is now a general strike across Catalonia.
Both Xavi and Pep Guardiola—former Barcelona players, Catalans, and outspoken supporters of the referendum on the issue of Catalan independence—voiced their anger at the situation this week. Xavi called the prison sentences “shameful,” while Guardiola said “Spain lives in an authoritarian drift in which anti-terrorist laws are used to prosecute dissent.”
As the protests continued all week, La Liga expressed concerns about the safety of spectators and players at the upcoming rivalry game. The decision to postpone comes after the two clubs rejected an alternate proposal to swap venues, holding the game in Madrid’s home stadium rather than Barcelona’s. Barcelona opposed that proposal because they believed their fans would pose no danger to the game were it to be held as scheduled, and Madrid because they had concerns over lacking security.
Back on October 1, 2017, Barcelona played a match with no spectators against Las Palmas at the Camp Nou while Catalonia voted in the aforementioned referendum. That option appears to not have been explored for what is La Liga’s biggest match of the year. It’s now up to the league to decide whether to accept the proposed December 18 date or come up with something different.