One of the world's most exclusive cigar clubs 'bans' Joan Laporta
The FC Barcelona president has allegedly been excluded from the 30 members-strong smokers club for his political views
One of the most exclusive cigar collectors clubs in the world has excluded a famous football club president due to his political beliefs.
FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta has reportedly been vetoed as a new member of the Club of Cigar Ambassadors.
The club is an elite group of Spanish business and politicians who smoke Cuban cigars. The club has only 30 members, and is invite-only.
It planned to induct Laporta, a prominent cigar smoker, at a special lunch meeting in the small town of Ribadedeva, in the northern region of Asturias, Spain.
However, the club reportedly changed its mind when it discovered that Laporta is an outspoken supporter of complete independence for Catalonia.
"Spain is doing a lot of damage to Catalonia," he once argued.
Laporta has promoted the Catalan language while in charge at the Barcelona football stadium Camp Nou, and controversially marched at the head of a separatist demonstration on September 11, Catalan National Day.
The identities of many of the club's members are not known - although two leading members are conservative politician Miguel Angel Revilla, president of the Cantabrian autonomous region (capital: Santander), and Francisco Pernia, president of the Racing Santander football club.
Apparently, Revilla and Pernia are behind the club's veto of Laporta. Several members allegedly threatened to quit if Laporta was admitted.
But it is not clear whether they made this decision before or after FC Barca's Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic ripped apart the Santander defence during their recent football match.
Laporta, 47, has been president of FC Barcelona since 2003 and has guided the club two Champions League triumphs.
However, he does not enjoy unanimous support among the club's members - and only managed to survive an acrimonious vote of confidence in 2008 by promising that he will step down in 2010 when his second term of office expires.