On my own blog last month I wrote about the arrogance surrounding Barcelona President Sandro Rosell’s declaration: “If Catalonia were independent one day, Barça would still play in the Spanish league. I have no doubt about it. We would play in Spain, just like Monaco does in France.”
Sadly, for Rosell, his doubtlessness is not enough. Catalonia would not be Monaco. If Catalonia were to become “independent”, it would seek to join the EU, UEFA and FIFA, hence, according to Catalan President Artur Mas, the reason why he hasn’t used the word “independence” to describe the move towards making Catalonia its own state. Monaco is independent in the Artur Mas sense: it is not a part of the EU and has no national team that has designs to join UEFA or FIFA. Catalonia would not be Monaco; UEFA laws state that member states must have their own domestic league.
An exception does come in the case of the Catalan league though and in the case of FC Andorra. Andorra is an independent nation and a member of UEFA and thus has their own domestic league. FC Andorra play in the fifth tier of the Spanish league in la Primera Catalana and can do so under Spanish law because they have been registered with the RFEF since 1948 while the Andorran Football Association joined UEFA in 1994. The RFEF’s law states that to be able to play in Spain, “a team must be affiliated to the RFEF and integrated into it, other than the Federation of Autonomous Communities that are members.”
Despite the crowing in Madrid about an independent Catalonia meaning that Barcelona would be kicked out of La Liga, is it so clear cut? If FC Andorra is allowed to continue playing in Spain, what of Barcelona, Espanyol, Nàstic and the other Catalan clubs if Catalonia becomes its own state? Don’t the current laws state that those clubs would be able to choose which league they play in? Despite a walk out in 1913 by Barcelona and Sabadell to join Real Sociedad, FC Pamplona and Irún in creating a mini-league, Barcelona have been an ever-present in Spanish football.
This scenario is still a long way from coming to any sort of fruition and Catalonia being its own state by no means a certainty. Before the 1.5 million people marched on Barcelona for Catalonia’s National Day on September 11th last month demanding independence, the ideal was seen as something similar to what Scotland and Wales have in Great Britain: political union with distinct national teams – no mention was ever made of distinct national leagues. It was seen that la Federació Catalana de Futbol (FCF) could join UEFA and FIFA, beat Spain and win the world cup and all would be fine. The Barcelona question would be avoided and everyone would be happy.
The above scenario has happened, though not in Catalonia, but in Gibraltar. The vote is to take place next May and is a contentious one since it means Spain would have to recognise Gibraltar as something more than piece of Spanish land occupied by someone else. If the vote were to succeed it could pave the way for the FCF to apply for UEFA and FIFA membership before any eventual Catalan statehood happened which would allow Barcelona, Espanyol and the like to continue playing in La Liga and for Catalonia to take place in international competitions and beat Spain in the world cup final.
-Raul Pope Farguell