On the 1st of October, the state of Catalonia held a referendum. Every football fan would remember the day having seen the sorry sight of an empty Nou Camp where Barcelona played Las Palmas. While the Spanish Government rejects the poll, on the other hand, results claim an overwhelming majority of 92.01% wish to leave Spain.
The current movement’s beginning can be traced back to 1939, when Spain was under the rule of Francisco Franco. His dictatorship saw the state governments abolishment. Also, there was a ban on the use of the local language. Soon after his death in 1975, the Spanish Government regranted autonomy to Catalonia within Spain. But, the calls for full independence have persisted from the time.
Claiming it to be the decision of the electorate, the Catalan Parliment on Friday declared independence from Spain. A few days ago, Spain removed Catalonia’s autonomy and hence took control of the state. While the future remains uncertain, Spain is surely in the middle of a massive political crisis.
Impact on football?
Like for the entire country of Spain, Football is a massive part of Catalonia’s culture. Some great football clubs belong to the state. This includes Barcelona Football Club. Along with them, two current La Liga teams are from the region, Espanyol, and Girona. If Catalonia was to leave Spain, the future of these football clubs will come under massive doubt. This is due to the fact that the clubs play in the Spanish league and by not being part of Spain, they will not be legally part of the league.
So where do they go?
If indeed Catalonia’s independence occurs, don’t be surprised to see Barcelona and other clubs remain a part of La Liga. It already has Andorra FC (from Andorra, which is not part of Spain) playing in it. Elsewhere in France, Monaco (Which is not part of France geographically) does play in the Ligue 1. Even the English leagues see the likes of Swansea and Cardiff (from Wales) taking part. The truth of the matter is La Liga can simply not afford to lose Barcelona’s wealth. Hence, even if Catalonia’s independence from Spain occurs, expect to see the three clubs sign a deal with the football federation to stay in the league.
While highly unlikely, there remains the possibility of talks breaking down between Catalonian clubs and the Spanish Federation. While this scenario possesses a dark future for the teams and Spanish football, here are few things that could happen.
The Catalan football federation already administers overs a number of regional teams. They are also responsible for conducting regional leagues of Catalonia within the Spanish football system. In case of a breakup, it is a very much possible that the top Catalonian clubs join up and strengthen their domestic league. Though a huge drawback in doing this remains qualification for the UEFA Champions League and Europe League.
In 2015, while being quizzed on the issue then French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said: “Monaco play in Ligue One, so why not Barcelona?”. There have been many rumors of France being interested in letting Barcelona play in their league if the situation was to arise. If the legal aspects are not a hindrance, it remains the most attractive opportunity for Barcelona. There won’t be anything better for them than to continue playing in one of the top Leagues in Europe.