The people of Catalonia cast their ballots to vote on the Catalan Referendum, on October 1, 2017 to decide on Catalonia’s independence from Spain. Amidst political riots and police violence, Catalan football giants FC Barcelona were thrown into questionable waters over the future of the club.
Ever since the club’s inception in 1899, FC Barcelona has been a symbol of political strife. Their slogan, “Mes que un club”, which translates to “More than just a club”, has been brought to light this month, as the club and its members voiced their strong opinions about the Catalan referendum, which was declared illegal by Spain’s constitutional court.
FC Barcelona had an untimely game with Las Palmas on October 1, coincidentally the very same day that hundreds of Catalans were attacked by Spanish police. Since cancelling the match at the Nou Camp would harm the club’s progress in La Liga, Barcelona took a different route in protest – they played the game with zero spectators.
In a silent and peaceful way, the club expressed their disapproval of Spanish authority. At the end of the game, Gerard Piqué, a passionate advocate of Catalan independence, was choking on tears as he said he was willing to leave the Spanish national team if his political agenda was causing any inconvenience.
The club published the following statement right after the events of the referendum:
“FC Barcelona, in remaining faithful to its historic commitment to the defense of the nation, to democracy, to freedom of speech, and to self-determination, condemns any act that may impede the free exercise of these rights,” they declared.
“Therefore, FC Barcelona publicly expresses its support for all people, entities, and institutions that work to guarantee these rights. FC Barcelona, in holding the utmost respect for its diverse body of members, will continue to support the will of the majority of the Catalan people, and will do so in a civil, peaceful and exemplary way.”
If a Catalan independence goes through, it is unclear where Barcelona will stand.
“Barcelona cannot choose where it plays if there is an independence process in Catalonia,” said La Liga President Javier Tebas.
For the football federations, a Catalan independence is risky. Financially, a Catalan league would eliminate Barcelona from important games, most importantly, the notorious “Clasico”.
Josep Maria Bartomeu, the club’s president, stated that Barcelona’s board would have to consider leaving La Liga in the event of Catalonia’s split from Spain.
“The situation concerning Barcelona’s future in La Liga does not exist so far, but with regards to what can happen in the future, the board of directors will discuss the option,” he said.
“We will find the best solution. If independence happens, we need to discuss things carefully.”
As it stands today, it is unclear how Catalonia’s hypothetical independence would affect FC Barcelona and the rest of the Catalan clubs.
One thing is for sure, it will get messy, and La Liga will need a lot to stay standing.