By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona have promised that their women's team will travel first class for the remainder of their tour of the United States after sending them economy on their outward journey, while the men's team enjoyed business class on the same flight.
Barca are currently carrying out their first ever mixed-sex pre-season tour, with the female and male teams both training at Nike's headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon this week.
The club faced criticism on social media, however, for their travel arrangements.
Barca spokesman Josep Vives said the women's team flew in economy rather than business because they were a late addition to the tour and they had already contracted a charter flight.
He also said the club deserved more praise for their steps to promote the women's team.
"They travelled comfortably, as they said, and from now they will all travel first class on the internal flights," he told a news conference.
"We should be valued for the steps we have taken in women's sport. We are working towards equality in many aspects, and we think that generating controversy over an issue like this is merely a way to attack us."
Maria Teixidor, director of the women's team, defended the club from what she called cynical criticism.
"To all of you who these days decided to criticise the conditions of the women's team's trip, I say that Barca asked its female team to travel with its male team so that in the future they can travel in business class on their own plane," Teixidor wrote in a letter on the club's official website.
"That will be the day we can talk about equality because women's sport will have the same media coverage, sponsorship deals and fan interest as men's sport...
"Until that day arrives, it would be nice for those who criticise us today could recognise the effort that the club is making today to promote women's sport. Until then, we ask for less cynicism."
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis)