As Catalonia Votes on Independence, Is Barcelona Playing Its Last Matches in La Liga?

Lead Photo: Photo courtesty of the AP
Photo courtesty of the AP
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Catalonia will hold elections for 135 Parliament members on Sunday, who will in turn vote for a Catalonian president. If the coalition led by Artur Mas (the current president) wins the majority of votes, it is expected that Catalonia will continue its path to independence. So if Catalonia becomes a separate country from Spain, what will happen with Barcelona’s participation in La Liga?

The situation is complex and tense. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was on the struggle bus this week, since he appeared on TV show Onda Cero and was more than confused by what would happen to the Spanish citizenship of the Catalonian people if they gain independence.

Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué has had a hard time with the Spanish national team after stating publicly that he believes the Catalonian people have the right to decide on the subject of independence. He was booed at the friendly game against Costa Rica in León, Spain and also at the game against Slovakia for the UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifiers. Adding fuel to the fire, Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos stated Piqué’s “actions [out of the field] were not helpful” to the national team.

And then there is Pep Guardiola. The former Barcelona and Spanish national team midfielder is so pro-independence that he is on the list of potential Parliament members. Even though he’s at the bottom of the list – since he has no real intention to serve – he still wanted to show his strong support for the coalition led by Artur Mas. It’s not strange, then, that Pep just stated, “Catalonia’s independence will happen sooner or later” during an interview with Catalonian journal El Punt Avui.

So with tensions running high, where does this leave Barcelona, a team that has always been linked to strong Catalonian sentiment​?

Spanish Sport Regulation states that only teams affiliated with their national federations are allowed to participate in their respective national tournaments, so if we’re following the rules strictly by the book, Barcelona will be out of La Liga if  Catalonia gained independence.

But realistically, Catalonia’s independence is more probable than Barcelona’s exclusion from La Liga. Despite Spanish Football Federation President Javier Tebas stating that “if Spain breaks up, so will La Liga” – which triggered speculation about whether Barcelona (and Espanyol) would be kicked out of the Spanish League – this still seems unlikely, as La Liga would simply lose too much money and viewer interest. Real Madrid would walk towards the title unchallenged, making La Liga more of a formality than an actual competition. In addition, Barcelona’s long-established rivalry with Real Madrid would come to a bizarre halt, as they would hardly ever get a chance to play. If Barcelona leaves La Liga, they lose, but so do Real Madrid and the Spanish league in general.

Plus, Barcelona would eventually find a place in another league, as the team would undoubtedly bring viewers and wealth to said league. It makes sense for Barcelona to play in the French league, as the city is quite close geographically to France. It also wouldn’t be the only foreign team playing in Ligue 1, since Monaco, one of the biggest teams in the French league, is technically not in France either.

Despite the relative ease with which Barça could make a move to Ligue 1, it seems unlikely that the Spanish Football Federation wouldn’t fight to keep Barcelona in their league.

But of course, if the political situation gets too tense between the Spanish government and the potentially new Catalonian one, the Spanish government could actually force Barça out, making whole thing very interesting to follow.

So keep on eye on this Sunday’s elections, as this could be the start of a new and strange era for Barcelona.