By Tim Hanlon
BARCELONA would not be allowed to play in La Liga if Catalonia broke away from Spain, the country’s football league chief Javier Tebas said as tensions mounted in the region over the possibility of an independence referendum next month.
Politics have been interwoven with the football club almost since it was formed and is summed up by the team’s motto: ‘more than a club’.
Barca’s role in pushing the Catalan nationalist cause varies depending on the board in power, but it always plays a central role in cultural life.
The present board, first under president Sandro Rosell and now Josep Maria Bartomeu, have taken a back-seat role in the heated debate currently taking place in the region about whether to hold an independence referendum on November 9.
Catalan independence would clearly impact on the future of Barca, who, along with Real Madrid, are the major powerhouses of the Spanish game with support throughout the country.
In the event that Barca did leave La Liga then it would severely weaken the image of the competition at home and abroad.
Similarly it would be hard to imagine Barca and local rivals Espanyol competing in a Catalan league, which would have many semi-professional teams.
“If Catalonia became independent, taking into consideration the Sports Law that would be enforced by the rest of Spain, Barcelona wouldn’t be allowed to play,” Tebas, the president of the LFP, told a sports conference in Barcelona.
“There would have to be a change in the law made in the Spanish Parliament.
“Clearly if it happened then it would be detrimental for Spanish football to lose Barca who are an historic club.
“I can’t imagine the LFP without Barca. In the same way as I can’t imagine Catalonia without Spain, I can’t see La Liga without Barca.
Also if it did happen what would you call the league: the Spanish League or the Iberian League?”
Barca supporters aligned with former-president Joan Laporta are calling on the club to be more vocal in support of the referendum.
Laporta, who was president from 2003 to 2010, wanted the club to be at the forefront of Catalan nationalist politics, which angered many fans, particularly those from other parts of Spain who felt alienated.
The present board though are less committal.
“It is a sensitive subject and the club won’t get involved but the president is considering making a statement in the coming days,” said a Barca spokesman.
Xavi and Gerard Pique, however, are among the Barca players who have come out in support of a referendum, following a September rally in Barcelona in favour of the vote, attended by 1.8 million people according to the police.
“We have all the right in the world to vote. We need to vote, we need the people to show their opinions and I am in favour of the referendum obviously,” Xavi told a news conference.
Both he and Pique were or currently are Spain internationals and the latter says that he still gives his all when playing for La Roja.