Barcelona ‘Suspicions’ Reportedly Grow Among Fans over Madrid-Based Referees

Reports from Catalonia have expressed concerns about the officiating in Barcelona’s opening games of the season, with three of the four referees assigned to their matches coming from Madrid.

Catalan newspaper Sport included a piece highlighting some big decisions that have gone against Barcelona this term and hinted that underpinning political tensions regarding the region’s ongoing strive for independence from Spain could be a motivating factor:

What Jaime Latre did at Camp Nou was almost a record. In just a few minutes he denied Barcelona two clear penalties against Malaga, in the league match on Saturday night. Not to mention the other controversial calls he made during the game.

It’s more of the same. Referees always seem to wrongly hurt Barcelona. And Barcelona supporters are getting tired of this story. And suspicions are starting to appear. 

For example, taking into account that Barcelona represents Catalunya and the current political situation, is it logical that of the first four official games of the season, three referees are residents of Madrid?

There’s no denying the Blaugrana were unlucky not to have gotten two penalties in the first half of their 1-0 win over Malaga, the first for a clear handball and the second for a blatant trip on Luis Suarez. Needless to say, Luis Enrique’s players and the Camp Nou crowd were pretty appalled by the officiating.

However, it’s worth remembering Barcelona were awarded a penalty in their league opener, which Lionel Messi subsequently missed. As noted by Bleacher Report’s Rik Sharma, the Blaugrana don’t seem to be taking full advantage of their spot-kick opportunities anyway:

It’s no surprise that Sport feels as though Barcelona are constantly on the end of Madrid-biased officiating. For as long as the Blaugrana and Real Madrid have been rivals, each side has always maintained the other is favoured by referees, and while the Catalans have been dealt some harsh hands in the past two matches, they’ve been the beneficiary in clashes gone by too.

Indeed, claims of wrongdoing have regularly come from the other side of this debate. Recent examples include former Real boss Jose Mourinho suggesting there was a UEFA conspiracy to favour Barcelona in 2011, per Matt Barlow of the Daily Mail. As noted by Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC, the Madrid press also hit out at what they perceived to be unfair refereeing after a Clasico defeat to Barca in 2013.

But Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, who was sent off earlier this season for berating an official, has insisted there is no agenda against either side from referees. “Winning La Liga will not depend on the referees,” he said, relayed by Joe Wright of Goal. “The referees are 100 per cent impartial.”

The players can certainly see that’s the case, even if they do occasionally get immersed in the emotion of matches. But for the equally tribal Spanish media and supporters, a full sense of perspective is unlikely.

While both sides will continue to argue about refereeing decisions ad infinitum, there are plenty of people who support other clubs in Spain that’d quickly point out there’s an overall bias toward the league’s two juggernauts. So while Barca have been on the end of some recent rough justice, over the course of the season, they will get their fair share of favourable calls.

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