Catalonian independence equals Spanish football without Barcelona

Published: September 23, 2014
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Though independence and separation might be the best option for the Catalonian state, separation on the football field should not be the considered as an agenda. PHOTO: AFP

Though independence and separation might be the best option for the Catalonian state, separation on the football field should not be the considered as an agenda. PHOTO: AFP Though independence and separation might be the best option for the Catalonian state, separation on the football field should not be the considered as an agenda. PHOTO: REUTERS

Despite Scotland’s ‘No’ vote on independence, the Catalans are adamant to break away from Spain as they push ahead defiantly for their own ballot on self-rule.

Just hours after the Scottish referendum results were announced, Catalonian parliament passed a law authorising them to hold a non-binding consultation on independence from Spain. However, Spain has refuted that it is unconstitutional for Catalonia to break away from them.

Politics and sports are often intertwined; so the question is, what if it does break away?

Furthermore, under the assumption that Catalonia breaks away from Spain, what impact will it have on the Spanish football, since several players of the Spanish team come from Catalonia?

Will they be still allowed to play in the Spanish League or will they form their own national league?

Spain breeds quality football, constituting the game’s two fiercest prowesses – Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona.

The Catalonian region, asking independence for years now, has been the chief architect of Spanish football, producing some of the finest players for Spain, with the core of the team coming primarily from Barcelona, which is the regions’ most famous and proud emblem.

Plenty of hue and cry has surrounded this debate that if the law applies, then what will happen to the fate of FC Barca. Barcelona’s president has stated, numerous times, that even if Catalonia becomes independent, it would make no difference, as their club would continue playing in the Spanish League regardless of the political differences.

However, under current rules, only those teams that are part of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) are allowed to compete in domestic competitions. So how will Barca even play after Catalonia becomes independent? And Barcelona is not the only club that will face eviction; another well known side, RCD Espanyol, also contributes to the Catalonian region.

This question is yet to be answered. However, we should also consider what options Barca has if Catalonia does come about.

They might form their own Catalan league? Catalonia already has a national team; however, it is not registered with FIFA or UEFA and is therefore not allowed to participate in international tournaments.

An angry split from Spanish football could force Barcelona to play in an independent Catalan league with no real competition from any rivals. The next highest performing clubs in Catalonia are Barcelona B teams, Girona and Sabadell, none of which attract a crowd higher than 5,000, as opposed to Barcelona’s mammoth fan following that can fill a stadium capacity of 90,000 people.

There’s no shortage of talent or experience with Barcelona players such as Gerard Pique and midfield maestros Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, who are all eligible and currently play for the Catalan regional team. If they register themselves with FIFA and UEFA, then the Catalan regional team will definitely become the fiercest prowess in world football, decimating Spain.

Barcelona and Real Madrid have been the two dominant clubs for over a decade in the Spanish League, though another club, Atlético Madrid, is coming in par with them by winning the 2013 Spanish League. However, in terms of revenue, fan following, and television rights, Athletico is nowhere even close to these clubs.

The El-Clasico played between Real Madrid and Barcelona is one of the most interesting and highly watched games in football. And if Barcelona bows out of the Spanish League, their arch-rivals, Real Madrid, would also be left with no major opposition – this will leave a huge impact on Spanish football.

Another possible outcome might be that the Catalonian side could register themselves with FIFA and UEFA to play in top football tournaments while allowing Barcelona to continue playing in the Spanish League. This seems like the least sought option, as Barcelona is the backbone of football – revenue and stardom attached with it, and Catalonia might not want to let go of that.

There are varying demands for change from increased autonomy to absolute independence. While there might still be a long way to go for the Catalans to finally get their wish for independence, this major debate of Spanish football will flare up with every news bite.

Though independence and separation might be the best option for the Catalonian state, separation on the football field should not be the considered as an agenda because no one can ever imagine an El-Clasico in the near future without two of the world’s best athletes – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Uzair Hasan Rizvi

Uzair Hasan Rizvi

A sports aficionado who is currently studying Masters in Journalism from AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, New Delhi, India. He tweets as @RizviUzair (twitter.com/RizviUzair)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.