In Depth

Questions arise over Barcelona’s La Liga future

If independence is declared Barcelona and Espanyol would be expelled

Barcelona’s players and staff will join today’s strike in Catalonia in protest at the violence that marred Sunday’s independence referendum.

The club issued a statement in which it said it would support the strike that has been called by Table for Democracy and that as a result the club will be closed.

Table for Democracy, which is made up of more than 40 organisations, has called the strike in response to the police brutality on Sunday that left nearly 1,000 people requiring medical attention.

“We strongly condemn the violence carried out by the state’s security forces to impede the October 1 referendum,” it said.

In truth the club’s strike is more a symbolic gesture as the bulk of the senior squad are away on international duty for this week’s round of World Cup qualification matches. Nonetheless, the decision is another sign of the club’s determination to stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the region in condemning Sunday’s violence.

But in light of the situation, and the increasingly acrimonious relations between Barcelona and La Liga, questions are now being asked about the club’s future in the league.

In an interview with the newspaper, Marca, La Liga president Javier Tebas warned that if Catalonia did declare independence it would mean expulsion for Barcelona and Espanyol, the region’s other top-flight team.

“In sport, it isn’t a la carte and things must be clearly stated,” he said. “It isn’t easy to have an agreement and study Spanish legislation but if they [Catalan clubs] do get that, then they will not be able to play in Spain’s La Liga, but I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Goal.com cast some doubt on Tebas’s comments, pointing out that the expulsion of Barcelona would be a very bad business decision for La Liga.

With no El Clasico against Real Madrid, the league would lose a lot of its lustre. Goal.com predicts that in the event of independence “a compromise could be reached that benefits all parties involved”.

The future of Barcelona post-independence was an issue addressed by The Guardian three years ago, shortly after the region had voted to break away in an unofficial referendum. 

On that occasion the paper speculated that Barcelona wouldn’t be able to continue in La Liga because of “the law governing the participation in professional sport in the country”. Only Andorran teams can play in Spanish leagues although as the Guardian noted the law could presumably be amended. The paper also remarked that Tebas is a “former member of the far right Fuerza Nueva” and not a man likely to look favourably on Catalan independence.

If Barcelona were thrown out of La Liga they could establish a Catalan league or perhaps look across the border to France. Two years ago, France’s then Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who was born in Barcelona, mooted the idea of the club playing in Ligue 1. After all, he said, Monaco play “so why not Barcelona?”

Such a move isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. Swansea, for example, play in the Premier League and there are even suggestions that Barcelona could seek to join them.

When it was put to Arsene Wenger at the weekend by Goal.com, the Arsenal manager didn’t seem to take the idea seriously, joking that he’d better start learning Catalan. He also pointed out that Barcelona would have to join the queue. 

“We have enough clubs here with 20 but if you want to go up to 24, we have to invite the Scottish clubs before we go for the Spanish,” he said.

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