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Catalonia, FC Barcelona and Football Chaos

October 1st, 2017 · No Comments · Barcelona, English Premier League, Football, France, Italy, soccer, Spain, Sports Journalism, UAE, World Cup

Catalonia took another step on the road to sovereign status in a referendum today. And, as we typically do in reflecting the world of sports, we make it about us.

To wit:

“If  Catalonia leaves Spain … what does this mean for FC Barcelona and the Spanish league and the Spanish national team?”

The short answer?

It could be complicated.

At the moment, three La Liga teams hail from Catalonia: Espanyol, Girona and the one that really, really matters, FC Barcelona.

Catalonia sports officials seem to believe the Spanish league will want to keep them, and especially FC Barcelona, which is one of the five most important clubs in the world, at the moment.

However, the president of La Liga, Javier Tebas, has said the teams of an independent Catalonia would not be able to remain in the Spanish league.

It is not difficult to imagine that Spain might feel, oh, annoyed, if one of its constituent parts said, “Oh, yeah, we’re starting a new country … but we expect to stay in the Spanish league.”

Catalan optimists cite Monaco’s presence in the French league and tiny Andorra’s slot in Spain’s basketball league, and note that Welsh teams Swansea and Cardiff have played in the English Premier League.

(Not mentioned was New York-based Major League Soccer and its three Canadian teams. And Australia’s top league and its one New Zealand club.)

Still, those are exceptions that mostly prove the rule: National club leagues are made up of teams located inside that nation’s borders.

Germany and German teams, Italy and Italian teams, China and Chinese teams, Brazil and Brazilian teams, Portuguese clubs in Portugal … and, at the other end of the area/population spectrum, Malta and Maltese teams, UAE and UAE teams, Qatar and Qatari teams.

Catalonia’s minister of sports suggested that Barca could find a league home elsewhere, mentioning France, Italy and England.

(He did not seem to be taking into account Catalonia’s smaller clubs, such as the aforementioned Girona and Espanyol, as well as Tarragona and Lleida and others.)

The Spanish league certainly would become less interesting, without Barcelona. That would leave the two Madrid clubs, Real and Atletico, favored to win just every competition every year, though other Spanish clubs are important in Europe — like Sevilla and Valencia.

As for the Spanish national team, it presumably would get weaker, considering how prominent Catalan players have been of late, including Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique …

A Catalonia national team likely would be globally competitive, with FC Barcelona as the focal point, but the prospective nation would have a population of about 7.5 million, and producing 15-20 world-class players perpetually might be difficult. Both Catalonia and Spain would be less likely to win World Cups, going forward.

Bottom line? This is more complicated than first meets the eye, and it isn’t just about FC Barcelona.

Both Spain and Catalonia should think about a football future in which one is estranged from the other.



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