“Amongst all unimportant subjects, football is by far the most important.”- Pope John Paul II
From the economic impact, to the enduring cultural benefits of autonomy, Spanish media is awash with debate surrounding the prospect of Catalonia seceding from Spain. An independent Catalonia would have massive repercussions, both off and on the pitch, the type of repercussions that could lead to FC Barcelona being banned from the Spanish league.
The president of the Liga Nacional de Fútbol Profesional (LFP), Javier Tebas, has marked his territory. His recent tweet effectively warns Catalonians to be careful of what they wish for.
Si se rompe España, se rompe LaLiga. Esperemos no llegar nunca a ese absurdo.
— Javier Tebas Medrano (@Tebasjavier) September 20, 2015
“If Spain splits, so too does La Liga. Let’s hope we never reach that absurd situation.”
Now, admittedly, this could be a comment laced with posturing. Tebas is a hard-right Spanish nationalist who cares more about Spain than he does La Liga. But, perhaps more alarmingly, it’s a statement that’s also been backed by Spain’s minster of sport Miguel Cardenal.
“FC Barcelona would be unable to carry on competing in the Spanish league. It’s absurd to think that if Catalonia becomes independent, the club could ask to be registered by the Spanish federation.”
Doomsday theories abound, but how likely is it?
The vote won’t definitively mean anything, but it would be a start
On Sept. 27th, Catalonians will take to the polls, with 135 seats in parliament up for grabs. Pro-independence forces are expected to gain the upper hand in the election. The resulting parliament will also vote in the president of Catalonia.
A victory for pro-independence candidates, however, does not automatically mean that Catalonia becomes independent. If the bloc holds a majority, it could begin moves to make a formal declaration of independence within a year and a half.
How are FC Barcelona involved?
A more apt question may be how are they not? If soccer is the most important of the unimportant, then Barcelona is where that line of demarcation becomes increasingly blurred.
The birth of the mainstream political ideology of Catalan independence (note: mainstream, not the latent desire that’s existed for centuries) can be tied to events of the last 15 years. At the risk of delving too far into the depths of a political labyrinth, here’s brief history of tensions.
2000 — The conservative party in Spain won a majority in parliament while not having to rely on the largest Catalan nationalist party. Thus the conservatives no longer had to make concessions to the group in order to pass their own legislation.
2006 — The Catalonian government agrees a deal with the national government to reform the Catalan Statute of Autonomy. The conservatives agreed to the deal but then challenged it in court after it was passed.
2011— The statue was defeated – largely seen as a stab in the back. The independence movement started to garner real tangible support.
Of course this coincides somewhat with FC Barcelona’s dominance of Spain and, in turn, Europe. It’s more correlation than causation, but if the political maneuverings behind the scenes were the foundation of the movement, Barça’s success has become a very visceral, blatant, and ultimately celebratory element of all things Catalan. As former England and Barcelona coach Bobby Robson put it:
“You have to understand that Barcelona is a nation without a state, and Barça is its army.”
In the wake of the elections however, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has remained neutral: “I won’t comment. Away from the campaign we all have our opinions, but there are parties striving to get votes right now and Barça will stay neutral, as ever, on this score.”