Spain’s regional Catalan government and La Liga are investigating a large barbecue hosted by Barcelona’s Lionel Messi on Monday for possibly violating public health restrictions.
The football star invited all of his team members and their partners to his house ahead of a season-defining match between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid set for Saturday.
Gol TV captured the team chanting “Champions, champions” from behind the fence of Messi’s luxury home in the Barcelona beach town of Castelldefels.
Local media estimate that around 50 people were in attendance, far in excess of the maximum six allowed to gather in private homes under Catalonia’s anti-COVID measures.
La Liga first announced it was opening a case on FC Barcelona for violating rules. Disciplinary measures could be taken, including penalizing players during the final matches of the season.
The suspect gathering also came on the radar of Catalonia’s Public Health Agency, which is investigating the incident.
“It’s especially important for public figures to do the right thing since many people look to them as role models,” said Catalan Premier Pere Aragones.
“The investigation is ongoing. We will see if we need to take it further.”
Under Catalan law, if someone holds an illegal event where between 15 and 150 people risk coronavirus infection, they can be fined between €3,000 and €60,000 ($3,600-$72,000).
FC Barcelona argues that the team and their partners are part of the same social bubble. Since they train, play, and travel together, the risk of contagion from a barbeque is irrelevant, they say.
The club added that all the guests maintained social distance and a maximum of six people ate at each table.