FC Barcelona Status Could Be Affected By Independence Vote
Barcelona could end up playing in the Premier League if Catalunya votes to become an independent nation. That’s according to the region’s minister of sport ahead of a referendum on Sunday over the issue of independence.
The referendum, which has been declared illegal by the Spanish government, is expected to show a majority of Catalunya’s 7.5million citizens voting in favour of independence. The Constitutional Court of Spain decided on 6 September that the referendum would be unconstitutional. Parties in the region loyal to Spain have urged supporters to boycott the vote.
There is some confusion as to how football in Catalunya might be affected if the region secedes from Spain. There are few Catalan sides in La Liga; only Barcelona, city rivals Espanyol and newly-promoted Girona. Three teams from the region play in the second division although one of those is Barcelona’s B team. The others are Reus and Gimnastic.
But according to Catalunya’s minister of sport Gerard Figueras said Barcelona will have the choice of where they may play.
“In case of independence, Catalan teams in La Liga will have to decide where they want to play: in the Spanish league or a neighbouring country – Italy, France or the Premier League.
“Now in Spain there teams from other countries who play in national leagues: clubs from Andorra in football and basketball. Monaco play in France, in England Welsh clubs. I don’t think that UEFA has anything against seeing another club play in a different league from their country.”
But Figueras may find the reality is much different. Clubs in Monaco, Andorra and Wales have historic footballing ties with leagues in other countries. But five non-league clubs in Wales played home games in England for a while following the formation of the League Of Wales (now the Welsh Premier League) in 1992. That enabled them to remain within the English league system while the issue went to court.
Scottish sides Celtic and Rangers have long been linked with a move to the Premier League but the league decided a few years ago that neither Scottish club would be able to cross the border.
Countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Slovenia and Montenegro all founded their own leagues following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia in the nineties.
In the event of Catalan independence, Fifa and Uefa are likely to give clubs in the region the option to remain where they are or to form a separate league for Catalunya. The Spanish FA could even force the issue by refusing to accept Catalan clubs in their league.
But the option of playing in a league as far away as England looks highly unlikely.