MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s top football division has asked that this month’s El Clasico match between Barcelona and Real Madrid be moved from Barcelona to the capital amid growing protests in Catalonia.
Nine Catalan separatist leaders were jailed for between nine and 13 years on Monday for their roles in an illegal referendum and subsequent failed independence bid, sparking protests and clashes across the region. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia.
The match is due to take place on Oct. 26 at Barca’s Camp Nou stadium. But La Liga has asked the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to reverse the fixture.
The second meeting of the season is due to take place in Madrid in March.
“We have requested the competitions committee of the RFEF to meet and change the location of El Clasico to Madrid because of exceptional circumstances beyond our control,” a La Liga spokesman said.
The RFEF did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
The announcement of the jail terms triggered mass protests across the region, with chaos at Barcelona’s El Prat airport leading to the cancellation of dozens of flights as well as clashes between police and protesters.
More than 40,000 people took to the streets with 125 wounded, with the authorities saying none of the injuries suffered were serious.
Local police confirmed 30 arrests were made across Catalonia, with 43 officers wounded during the demonstrations.
On Monday, Barca released a statement titled “Prison is not the solution” condemning the sentences, while Manchester City’s Spanish coach, Pep Guardiola, also spoke out against the jail terms in a video that was released on social media by the group Tsunami Democratic.
Protests continued throughout Wednesday, with the country’s high-speed rail network suffering delays, while motorways throughout Catalonia and many of Barcelona’s main thoroughfares remain closed.
(Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Nick Macfie)