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Laporta: “We’re not the ones to blame, but we’re still responsible”

President Joan Laporta during the special press conference to explain what happened against Eintracht Frankfurt / IMAGO/ ZUMA WIRE

FC Barcelona was knocked out of the Europa League by Eintracht Frankfurt last Thursday in a Camp Nou dominated by German fans. President Joan Laporta held a press conference to discuss what happened and how to prevent something similar from happening in the future.

Last Thursday, Barça fell short to Eintracht Frankfurt (2-3) at home, but it didn’t feel like much of a home game for the players. Whereas they were expecting a full Blaugrana stadium supporting them, they were greeted by over 30.000 Eintracht fans dressed in white who somehow managed to get tickets in the home sections of the Camp Nou. The German fans took over the atmosphere and streets of Barcelona. In protest, the Grada de Animación (one of the loudest stands of the Camp Nou) decided not to show up for yesterday’s game against Cádiz. President Laporta called a press conference to explain what went wrong and which measures will be taken to prevent this from happening again. Apart from Laporta, Juli Guiu (vice president of marketing) and Lluís Venteo (head of security) were also present.

About the presence of German fans at the Camp Nou:

Laporta: “I want to thank the club members and Barcelona fans who attended the match against Eintracht, it was Easter and I want to thank the members and the fans from the bottom of my heart. Also for showing up yesterday against Cádiz. And I want to apologize to them because they felt inconvenienced by the massive presence of German fans.”

“Now, it’s easy to say that we could’ve seen it coming. Of course, we could’ve done better, but in the meetings with UEFA, they told us that the other fans just came to Barcelona without a ticket. This didn’t turn out to be true. Those who came without a ticket managed to find tickets through club members as well. Yes, we were worried, seeing so many Germans around the stadium. The team was even rebuked when the coach arrived. If we had prevented the entrance on a whole, perhaps we would now regret what could’ve happened.”

Venteo: “We knew that this number of fans were coming, but we thought they were coming without tickets. It wasn’t planned and when we opened the doors, we saw that they were standing in lines and probably had tickets. The surprise was that they had tickets. Then we relocated and reinforced troops where we saw that they were causing problems.”

About how it happened:

Laporta: “More than 27,201 purchase requests were attempted from Germany and the system was overwhelmed.”

“There was also a misuse by some of the members. There are no sale controls, so we can only make estimations. Some tickets of season ticket holders also went to German fans. It’s sad because those of us who love Barça, most of us, find it hard to imagine that a member would give his ticket to a rival fan, but it happened.”

“We inherited the current ticket system from the previous board. This belongs to the most social area, ticketing and security, and we thought it would work but we’ve seen that in special matches like this, the ideal circumstances occurred for these ‘resale’ groups, with mobilized rival fans and a high purchasing power… That’s why there was an opportunity for these organized groups.”

“Private security, which worked, was also overwhelmed.”

About the problems the German fans caused:

Venteo: “It was a high-stakes match, and nothing happened that wouldn’t usually happen. Our concern was the 5,000 fans who are part of the Eintracht ultra groups, but with the drones, we were able to see that the situation was not as we expected. The doors were full of German fans and we came to understand that there would be a lot of them inside the stadium.”

“They entered the stadium early, they have a culture of standing up, drinking… This caused friction between the fans. They were divided throughout the entire stadium, with larger groups than the 5,000 we expected. If there would’ve been only 5,000 of them, we would’ve had the situation under control. The problem was in the area of local fans, which we were totally overwhelmed by. We distributed the security forces and the local fans were angry because of the joy of the German fans.”

About preventing something similar from happening again:

Laporta: “We are ultimately responsible for what happened, but the club didn’t sell tickets to German fans. It was caused by what we’ve explained. And as we’re responsible, we have to take action. What we’ll do in special, international and also some league or cup matches, is that the tickets will be nominative, it will all be digital.”

Venteo: “Everything works through a computer program and access will be via mobile phones. Some clubs already do it, like Osasuna. It’s a culture change. People are used to the role of the entrance but the objective is that we know whoever enters, and it doesn’t mean that the subscription can’t be transferred.”

About the impact it had on the game:

Laporta: “The same night, I explained it to Xavi. I told him what I explained here today but in less detail. Nobody liked what we saw. If the atmosphere had been different, it would’ve helped the team. But we always aspire to win, despite a hostile environment. I would say that there were 30,000 Germans and 50,000 Catalans and they, with the goals, grew into the game. It hurts me that stones were thrown at our bus. If we had won, our fans would have been more noticeable.”

About the absence of some fans at the game against Cádiz:

“The message I want to give them is that we’re waiting for them in the next game and that we hope they continue to cheer on the team, that should be clear. We don’t like to see those stands empty, they give the stadium a great atmosphere, they help the team. They have their reasons and I respect them but I want them to come back. Only they were missing. The atmosphere was good and with them, it would’ve been better. We still have seven finals left to play in the league.”

“Mathematically, we can still win the league and we’ll fight to finish at high as possible. We need the fans more than ever. It’s very important that we qualify for the Champions League, also for the economical situation.”