Troubled times could be ahead for one of the world’s biggest teams.
Amid the political unrest in recent months across Spain as the region of Catalonia pushes to get independence from the rest of the country, the president of La Liga, Javier Tebas, dropped a bombshell on Tuesday: if Catalonia becomes an independent nation, Barcelona and Espanyol may not be permitted to play in Spain’s top-flight.
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A plan for Catalonia to hold a referendum on independence was vetoed back in March by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the vast majority of politicians in Madrid. That said, the Catalan government is going ahead with a non-binding referendum on Nov. 9, which has led to furious debate among politicians in Spain. Now it seems like independence could mean the end in Spain’s top-flight for the 22-time champions, FC Barcelona.
However, there is some hope for Barcelona and Espanyol, as the league does allows teams from the country of Andorra (a tiny nation wedged in-between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountain range) to play in their competitions after passing certain laws for that to happen. A similar precedent would have to be set for Catalan’s two top-flight teams to stay in the Spanish soccer pyramid, but it seems like that could create plenty of issues.
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Tebas said that for clubs from an independent Catalonia to be included in La Liga, it would require “a modification of the law” and it would have to be approved by parliament. “For such a modification to be given the go-ahead, we’d have to wait and see if the affected sector would agree to such a change,” Tebas said about Catalonia’s plans to become independent.
Catalonia is piggy-backing off the referendum held in Scotland in September, which saw Scottish people vote on whether or not they should leave the United Kingdom. If you’ve never been to Barcelona, there’s an overwhelming feeling from the vast majority of its citizens that they can control themselves and should not have to answer to politicians in Madrid. They have a point.
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The Catalan region is the richest in Spain and has a population of over 7.5 million. The locals pride themselves on their fanatical support for Barcelona and the ‘El Clasico’ games against Real Madrid are about much more than the two clubs. It is about the two biggest cities in Spain colliding and trying to prove their power, financially, in football terms and politically. I once found myself in the Catalan capital and after Barca fans celebrated one of their teams finest Champions League wins, they began rioting in the streets against police and screaming anti-Madrid songs. I saw anti-Madrid graffiti constantly and the push for independence seems to be strong.
We certainly haven’t heard the last of this one, as Tebas’ claims will certainly make fans of Barcelona and Espanyol think twice when they vote for independence from Spain.