Football: Man City manager Guardiola fined over Catalan ribbon protest

Guardiola wearing a ribbon in support of Catalan independence.
Guardiola wearing a ribbon in support of Catalan independence.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - England’s Football Association on Friday fined Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola £20,000 ($36,000) for wearing a yellow ribbon in support of jailed Catalan independence leaders.

The City boss has also been warned as to his future conduct by the governing body after accepting a charge of “wearing a political message”.

Guardiola, born in Catalonia, has argued that wearing the symbol is not political but has accepted it is in breach of the FA’s kit and advertising regulations.

He has not apologised for the gesture but has said he will stop wearing the ribbon during domestic matches in order to observe the rules.

The former Barcelona boss will continue to wear it for pre- and post-match media commitments, however. This is permitted as the FA’s regulations refer specifically to the technical area during games.

He can also wear it during Champions League matches, as he did for Wednesday’s clash against Basel, because it is not a breach of UEFA codes.

Following events last year surrounding Catalonia’s bid to break away from Spain, which included a referendum and a proclamation of independence, both deemed illegal, the authorities jailed several leaders of the movement.

An FA said earlier this week that Guardiola had “admitted an FA charge for wearing a political message, specifically a yellow ribbon, in breach of the FA’s kit and advertising regulations”.

Guardiola’s much-publicised stance over the situation in Catalonia has become a major issue in his homeland where, according to reports in Spain, the City manager’s private plane was searched at Barcelona’s El Prat airport last month by police looking for exiled Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.

Since the FA charge was issued Guardiola, who was born in Catalonia, has either covered up the ribbon during games or not worn it.

However, the City boss has said that, even though his protest aims to highlight the fates of a jailed group that includes independence leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, it is not a political issue.

“When men and women put on a pink ribbon it’s because of the support for the breast cancer initiative,” he said.

“The same when I wear the prostate cancer badge, it’s the same, the idea is the same, there are a lot of ribbons.

“I’m pretty sure there are people all around the world in Spain and Catalonia who do not want to be independent, but they are not agreeing with putting people in ‘prevention’ jail.”