Catalan police: clásico will go ahead

The Mossos d’Esquadra vow that the players and the match officials will be able to reach the stadium

La Liga’s clásico can finally go ahead. According to sources close to the Catalan police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, next week’s Barça-Madrid fixture is in no danger of being cancelled following the Tsunami Democràtic’s protest announcement [the Catalan protest group has called on its supporters to meet outside the Barça stadium before the match]. The Catalan police force are already planning the operation for 18 December and have given assurances that the match will take place. A police spokesperson declared that the players and match officials will be able to reach Camp Nou [Barca’s stadium] to participate in the match at 8 o’ clock in the evening, as scheduled. The current plan is for the Catalan police force to have sole responsibility for policing the event. Inside the stadium, FC Barcelona's private security will also be present, as usual.

The police announced that next Wednesday they will man the four points where the Tsunami Democràtic have announced plans to hold demonstrations to block access to Camp Nou. The Mossos will be patrolling the area throughout the day. They will try to ensure that both players and match officials can safely enter the stadium. The Mossos have suggested to the players that they travel to Camp Nou as a group in order to make their access more manageable, although the precise arrangements are still being worked out with the clubs. The police will also be stationed at the entrance to the stadium to supervise the security checkpoints. They will share this duty with Barça’s own private security. According to police sources, the arrangements aren’t significantly different from what normally happens during a clásico fixture.

The Mossos have announced that for a regular match –one without any protests planned– between Barça and Madrid special antiterrorist measures are taken, involving more officers and tighter security measures. Although the use of a greater number of officers hasn’t been ruled out, the Mossos have stated that they do not expect to deploy many more officers than during a regular Barça-Real match at Camp Nou. Police sources also declared that security within the stadium, even in the event of a pitch invasion, is the responsibility of Barça’s security guards –though a larger number are likely to be present next Wednesday. The police only plan to intervene inside Camp Nou, if the situation gets out of hand.

Best to travel by underground or on foot

The Mossos will also be stationed at the four points in the neighbouring areas round the stadium where Tsunami Democràtic has called on its supporters to hold a protest. The police will be there to protect people’s right to protest and to ensure the match goes ahead. The Mossos insist that it will be possible to access the stadium and that they are well aware of possible clashes between rival fans at the entrances. Police sources estimate that it would take tens of thousands of protesters to block the numerous entrances to Camp Nou, although they recommend that next Wednesday the fans ought to travel to the stadium by underground or on foot rather than by private car.

In terms of what banners are allowed into the stadium next Wednesday, police sources suggest that, in theory, a sign saying "Spain, sit and talk" does not infringe any laws aimed at preventing violence in sport. Nevertheless, Barça –who are responsible for the decision–, can establish more stringent criteria and prevent fans from entering the stadium with placards associated with the Tsunami Democràtic. The Mossos have stated that they are working closely with FC Barcelona to finalise the precise details of the security operation during the match. The police operation will be directed from the Operational Coordination Centre (Cecor) located at Catalonia’s Ministry of the Interior HQ, which will also be in touch with other security forces.

The Federation passes the buck to the Mossos

Meanwhile, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has left the door open to the possibility of postponing the fixture once more, or even of holding it at a neutral stadium, although for now it is not expected they will pursue this option. Following a meeting earlier today, the RFEF announced it will accept the Mossos’ reassurances and it will only make a decision if the police inform them that there is a danger that the match will not go ahead as planned. As far as the Mossos are concerned, sources suggest that they see no reason to cancel the clásico since they believe the security question has been resolved. The Catalan police insist that the match could have been played on 26 October, when it was initially planned, before it was subsequently postponed.

In a statement, the RFEF announced that "The Federation will follow the regulations in force both before, during and after the match, if any unforeseen circumstances should occur which were to make the application of discipline measures necessary", before going on to make it clear that "it does not have any responsibility for matters of security". The Competition Committee –a part of the RFEF– postponed the match in October, partially at the League’s behest and after evaluating the political climate in Catalonia, following the court ruling in the case against the pro-independence leaders. This time neither of the clubs have approached the RFEF on an official basis, meaning they will have to await its decision. The RFEF will continue to maintain "contact with the security forces" to ensure that those involved –players and match officials– arrive at Camp Nou when due.

The Federation has the power to postpone the match or oblige the teams to play on neutral ground. Furthermore, they can call a halt to the match once it has started if there is some type of altercation, such as a pitch invasion. It can also impose fines of up to €6,000 or the partial or total closure of the stadium if the fans engage in "very serious" behaviour.