Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has defended a controversial decision to begin charging under-sevens for entrance to the Camp Nou -- starting with Oct. 26’s La Liga game against Real Madrid.
• Ledwith: Barca growing too big?
The move brings Barca in line with most other clubs in Spain and elsewhere, who long ago stopped the practice of allowing youngsters into games for free -- often by lifting them over the turnstiles -- but the decision has taken by many in Catalonia as another sign that Rosell is moving away from the 'mes que un club' ethos.
Rosell went on Catalunya Radio on Wednesday morning to explain the decision, saying it had been taken on safety grounds and was actually bringing the club into compliance with a Spanish law that dates from 2007 and says that everyone attending a game must have a ticket.
“I am the first who is against the decision that I have taken from a popular point of view, but I had to take it due to the responsibility I have,” Rosell said. “I prefer a headline that says ‘Rosell does not let the kids in’ than one that says ‘Rosell has killed a kid’. That is clear. It is one of those rules you are not necessarily in favour of, but it is the law.”
Although the highest number of children thought to have attended a game in this way previously was 10,000, for a midday kickoff against Getafe last season, Rosell said he had been told that the 6pm start time for the Clasico could lead to up to 40,000 under-sevens coming to the ground.
“The security experts alerted us to the fact that at a Barca-Real Madrid game, instead of 15,000 children, 40,000 children could come," Rosell said. “We could have an attendance of 140,000 spectators. It is not a problem of respecting the law, but that anything could happen in the third tier [of the Camp Nou]. It is not really a problem of the law but of security -- any incident could provoke a stampede and there could be deaths. We do not want to run that risk.”
Asked if there could be some way of ensuring that children who had expected to attend the biggest game of the season so far were not disappointed, Rosell said that would be difficult.
"No child of less than seven years will be able to understand this step,” he said. “If I were that child of seven, I would not agree with the Barca president. I have also been seven years old and gone to the Camp Nou with my father. It is a tradition that has been there all the time. But it is difficult, because we have all the stadium sold out.”