Barca fly to London early due to volcano ash

BARCELONA, Spain, May 24, 2011 (AFP) - The Barcelona squad flew to London on Tuesday night for the Champions League final, two days earlier than planned, due to the disruption to air travel caused by the ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano.

The club had intended to leave on Thursday for Saturday's final at Wembley against Manchester United, but due to the uncertainty caused by ash from the Grimsvoetn volcano, the first team decided to travel to London early.

The players and coach Pep Guardiola arrived at Barcelona airport by bus and boarded a plane bound for London Stansted which took off at 22:00 (20h00 GMT).

Barca wanted to avoid a repeat of last year, when the squad traveled 1,000 kilometres by coach to Milan for their Champions League semi-final because the ash cloud from another Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjoell, disrupted air travel throughout Europe.

The Catalan giants lost that match 3-1 against Inter.

"We weren't making a decision based on any previous experience good or bad ... we were looking for the zero risk for our team and maximum service for our fans," said team spokesman Toni Freixa.

Freixa admitted however that it could be "complicated" for the hundreds of Barca fans planning to make the journey to Wembley.

"For the moment we're maintaining the flight reservations and we're looking at alternative travel plans by bus," he said.

Freixa said that the match wouldn't be cancelled under any circumstances, but admitted "it would be a disaster" if the stadium was half empty.

The plume of ash from the volcano has already reached Britain and halted hundreds of flights.

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