What next?

Barca fu­ture in doubt in case of Cata­lan in­de­pen­dence

Global Times - Weekend - - SPORTS - AFP Page Ed­i­tor: wanghuayun@ glob­al­times.com.cn

Which clubs are af­fected?

Cat­alo­nia’s drive for in­de­pen­dence from Spain could have wide-reach­ing con­se­quences for the re­gion’s soc­cer clubs, in­clud­ing the world fa­mous Barcelona. Cata­lan lead­ers signed a dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence from Spain on Tues­day but im­me­di­ately put it on hold and called for talks with Madrid to re­solve the coun­try’s worst po­lit­i­cal cri­sis in decades. Here, AFP Sports looks at what ques­tions lie ahead for the clubs and the Span­ish soc­cer au­thor­i­ties in the com­ing months:

As well as Barcelona, there are two other Cata­lan clubs – Es­panyol and Girona – in La Liga and three more, in­clud­ing Barca’s B team in the sec­ond di­vi­sion.

Could Cata­lans con­tinue in La Liga?

La Liga Pres­i­dent Javier Te­bas has re­peat­edly in­sisted that Cata­lan teams would not be al­lowed to con­tinue in La Liga af­ter in­de­pen­dence.

“If the re­bel­lion suc­ceeds, we will work for a league with­out Barcelona,” Te­bas told BeIN Sports Spain this week.

Te­bas’ rea­son­ing is that Spain’s sports law only al­lows teams from Spain and An­dorra to par­tic­i­pate in Span­ish leagues.

How­ever, a change in leg­is­la­tion could al­low Cata­lan teams to con­tinue and many be­lieve that Te­bas’ hard-line stance could soften should in­de­pen­dence be es­tab­lished, not least due to the eco­nomic blow that los­ing Barca could have for La Liga. “Barca-Real Madrid is a very at­trac­tive prod­uct. Try­ing to de­stroy that would be an er­ror on the part of the gov­ern­ment, La Liga or the Fed­er­a­tion,” for­mer Barca pres­i­dent and pro-in­de­pen­dence cam­paigner Joan La­porta told a con­fer­ence last month.

Will this sea­son be com­pleted?

A long road lies ahead for in­de­pen­dence to suc­ceed. Ac­cord­ing to Al­berto Palo­mar, a doc­tor of law at Madrid’s Car­los III Uni­ver­sity and ex­pert in sports law, any tran­si­tion to­ward in­de­pen­dence would main­tain Span­ish law un­til the dec­la­ra­tion of a new Cata­lan con­sti­tu­tion.

“While the [Cata­lan] fed­er­a­tions are in­te­grated, the teams can com­pete and play­ers can rep­re­sent Spain,” said Palo­mar. Even Te­bas ad­mit­ted last week he “didn’t think there would be an im­me­di­ate rup­ture” that would pre­vent the cur­rent sea­son from fin­ish­ing.

Could Barca play in other leagues?

The ex­am­ples of Monaco in the French Ligue 1 or Welsh side Swansea City in the English Pre­mier League have led to ru­mors that Barca could turn to one of Europe’s other top leagues if they are shut out of La Liga.

How­ever, the prospect of clubs in Eng­land or France vot­ing for the in­clu­sion of a pow­er­house like Barca into their leagues re­mains a re­mote one.

Palo­mar also be­lieves the process of gain­ing FIFA recog­ni­tion for an in­de­pen­dent Cata­lan fed­er­a­tion could be a drawn-out one like in the cases of Gi­bral­tar or Kosovo, with­out which no agree­ments can be made to form cross-bor­der leagues.

Any Cata­lan league would also need UEFA recog­ni­tion to gain en­try to com­pe­ti­tions such as the Cham­pi­ons League.

Faced with a se­ries of un­en­tic­ing op­tions, Barca could also use their sport­ing and fi­nan­cial mus­cle to try and con­vince some of Europe’s other top clubs to form a break­away league.

What would be the eco­nomic im­pact?

In an in­ter­view with AFP in 2015, Te­bas de­scribed the Barca’s ri­valry with Real Madrid as La Liga’s “crown jewels.” El Cla­sico is reg­u­larly the most watched match around the world and a huge boost to La Liga’s near 1.8 bil­lion euro ($2.1 bil­lion) TV rev­enue for the 2016-17 sea­son. Ac­cord­ing to Jose Maria Gay de Liebana, pro­fes­sor of eco­nom­ics at Barcelona Uni­ver­sity, Barca’s de­par­ture would see a “min­i­mum of 200 mil­lion euros” wiped off La Liga’s TV in­come. For Barcelona, the im­pact could be even more dras­tic. The club an­nounced last month they ex­pect to make a record 897 mil­lion euros this sea­son, nearly a quar­ter of which comes from La Liga TV deals. “They wouldn’t be able to have worldlead­ing fig­ures,” added Gay de Liebana, of a squad cur­rently boast­ing the likes of five­time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi. “They would be­come a medium-sized club.”

What are Barca’s con­tin­gency plans?

A pow­er­ful sym­bol of Cat­alo­nia around the world, Barca have tried to walk a po­lit­i­cal tightrope by com­ing out in fa­vor of Cat­alo­nia’s right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion, but stop­ping short of back­ing in­de­pen­dence.

A Barca spokesper­son told AFP that the club would “con­sult its mem­bers” in the hy­po­thet­i­cal case in­de­pen­dence came to pass. How­ever, they re­main con­fi­dent that “any league in Europe, in­clud­ing the Span­ish league, would love to have a club like Barca tak­ing part in it.”

Barcelona and Spain de­fender Ger­ard Pique is a vo­cal sup­porter of the Cata­lan in­de­pen­dence.

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