Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has defended his controversial decision to forsake tradition and force children under seven to pay for tickets to matches at the Camp Nou, per ESPNFC's Dermot Corrigan.
Rosell's decision has drawn major criticism from sections of the club's support, Corrigan reports, with the view that it is another step away from the club's "mes que un club" philosophy.
Worse still, the decision will take effect ahead of the upcoming Clasico fixture with Real Madrid.
Rosell defends controversial decision to stop giving free Camp Nou tickets to under-sevens, starting w/ Clasico: http://t.co/gliuzBPlLq— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) October 16, 2013
The president, speaking to Radio Catalunya, argued that it was a decision that had to be made to prevent disaster given the early kickoff 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.
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.
For the club it is an issue that was inevitably going to have to be dealt with at some point, as rising expectations of health and safety standards demand that capacity requirements are strictly adhered to.
Perhaps, had Rosell not already alienated sections of the club's support with his conduct towards Pep Guardiola and his decision to sell the advertising space on the front of the club's jersey, it would not be such a major issue.
Indeed, as Corrigan previously reported, a fans group called "Go Barca" had considered launching a protest against the Rosell presidency over allegations that he had tricked other members of the club.
Bringing through reforms at a member-run club like Barcelona will never be easy, but Rosell has not always helped himself with the manner of his dealings.
His disputes with Guardiola and treatment of Eric Abidal, who claimed he wasn't paid during his recovery from a liver transplant—per Pete Jenson of the Daily Mail—have become major criticisms of his presidency, while Rosell has also had to deny accusations of fraud over business dealings in Brazil, per ESPNFC.
Pincer movement on Rosell -- from angry Barcelona members and persistent Brazilian media.— Keir Radnedge (@KeirRadnedge) October 16, 2013
For a club like Barcelona, who pride themselves on the integral role they play within the Catalan community, such claims are not seen as being in keeping with the club's image.
On the pitch, though, Barcelona have gone from strength-to-strength during the Rosell era and, as recent reports show, he has managed to reduce the club's debt through his commercial dealings, per ESPNFC.
Rosell may feel he is doing the right thing to bring the club in line with expectations of the 21st century with his latest decision, but he must also take heed at his growing unpopularity among the club's core support.