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Barcelona blast UEFA over Catalan flag fine

Barcelona vice-president Carles Vilarrubi says it is "monstrous" that the club have been fined by UEFA for Catalan flags flown by home fans at the Camp Nou.

UEFA have fined Barca €40,000 after Catalan estelada flags flown by fans during last month's Champions League Group E game at home to Bayer Leverkusen were taken to be political symbols which are not allowed inside stadiums.

This follows a similar punishment meted out by UEFA after similar flags and banners were waved by Blaugrana supporters at last June's Champions League final in Berlin.

While the estelada flags are often used by the current independence movement within Catalonia, Barca have previously argued to UEFA that showing them at a football game is not necessarily an overtly political gesture.

The club's institutional chief Vilarrubi told Catalunya Radio that the club "felt tricked" by currently suspended UEFA president Michel Platini, and would do whatever it takes to defend the rights of its fans to behave as they liked in their own stadium.

"We do not like this UEFA, it is an institution which lives with its back to reality," Vilarrubi said. "It is monstrous to tell the socios what they can and cannot do in their stadium. You cannot stop people doing what they want in their own house. I do not know what UEFA are looking for, but the diplomatic route is over. We feel tricked by Platini and if we need to we will go to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg."

Barca had tried to explain the situation, Vilarrubi maintained, but nobody at UEFA was able to understand Barca's view that allowing the Catalan colours to be waved at their games was not a political act.

"It was useless," he said. "After knowing the UEFA punishment, we could see the level of their directors. Our current state is of stupefaction. They understood nothing we explained to them. We are very aware of what we represent, but we do not want to enter into political fields. However, from today, many civil groups will protest to UEFA about the subverting of their individual rights."

Another Barca vice president Jordi Mestre, with the team in Belarus ahead of Tuesday's Champions League fixture at BATE Borisov, told the club's website that the club would appeal the fine as the flags "did not incite violence" and consider other legal avenues they could take.

"We are surprised," Mestre said. "We will appeal against the decision, and if necessary, we will take legal advice. We will battle until the end and we do not understand why UEFA would treat us like this for something that does not incite violence.

"There is not a war with UEFA but we are defending the interests of our club. We have always had a very respectful and well behaved set of fans. We would never tell our members and fans not to express their opinion. We have had a series of conversations with UEFA executives that came to nothing."

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