Catalan referendum: Polling stations sealed off by police

Pep Guardiola

A Spanish sports minister claims that Barcelona could join the Premier League if Catalonia gains independence from Spain.

Public polls show that 41 percent of Catalonia's residents support the independence of the region, while 49 percent oppose it.

If it does take place, and if the Catalan people vote "yes", Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said they would declare their independence within 48 hours, Reuters reports.

The main civic group behind Catalonia's push for independence said - given the concentrated efforts by Spain to block the vote - that a turnout of 1 million voters, less than a fifth of the electorate, should be considered an "overwhelming success".

The referendum, declared illegal by Spain's central government, has thrown the country into its worst constitutional crisis in decades and raised fears of street violence as a test of will between Madrid and Barcelona plays out. On each ballot will be just one question: "Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?" It is unclear how Catalan police will behave.

For days, they have been seizing electoral items such as ballot papers while prosecutors have ordered the closure of websites linked to the vote and the detention of key members of the team organising the referendum.

Millo says anyone remaining in schools after 6 a.m. will need to be removed in line with a judge's orders, but predicts there won't be significant problems.

The ambassador warned the United Kingdom may be the first to be affected if Catalonia breaks away after Sunday's referendum. Pro- and anti-independence protests also unfolded this week in Madrid and other cities.

Catalan referendum vote police
Riot police clashed with voters on Sunday. Getty Images

Dozens of similar protests calling for the nation's unity popped up in other Spanish cities in the first large grassroots response to the Catalan independence bid.

Tensions have risen as the vote approached, with some Catalans complaining that the central government was seeking to suppress their democratic rights.

"We don't understand why we can't express in a peaceful manner the simplest expression of democracy - a vote", said Pablo Larranaga, as he stood in a school in Barcelona surrounded by parents and small children.

"I think that from now it would be logical for the European Union to actively monitor (the situation) and actively take an interest", he said.

The day passed peacefully in most places, but in Manlleu, a community near Barcelona that is home to many immigrants, four people who were camped out at a school were shot with a BB gun.

He said: 'I trust in the common sense of Catalans and that people will operate with prudence'. The tractors eventually stopped, converging on the regional government building.

While no one can know for sure - considering Catalan independence would be a massive step into the unknown - the likeliest outcome would be for the clubs to be expelled from LaLiga and they would have to reapply for membership.

Spain is divided into 17 autonomous regions, of which Catalonia is one.

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