Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has defended his controversial decision to force children under seven to pay for tickets to matches at the Camp Nou.
Rosell’s decision has drawn criticism from sections of the club’s support, with many feeling that it is yet another step away from the club’s ‘more than a club’ philosophy.
The decision will come into effect ahead of the upcoming Clasico fixture with Real Madrid.
The president, speaking to Radio Catalunya, argued that it was a decision that had to be made to prevent disaster given the early kick-off time of the clash with their fierce rivals:
“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,” he 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.
“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. 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.
“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.”
This is not the first time Rossel has angered the Barcelona faithful.
His arguments with former coach Pep Guardiola and the treatment of Eric Abidal, who claimed he wasn’t paid during his recovery from a liver transplant, have alienated some. Then there is this season’s sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways – the first time the club’s shirt will be adorned by a profit-making organisation – which has not gone down well with many traditionalists.
More than a club? Perhaps not for much longer.