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September 28, 2012 / ultrafox1963

Could Barca soon be forced out of La Liga?

Barcelona players celebrate another victory – but could their era of domination soon end?

Followers of FC Barcelona should be looking to the future with confidence.

The side has won each of its first five league games of the 2012-13 season, with stars like Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta again showing the form which has earned them so many honours in recent seasons. The transition from former head coach Pep Guardiola to his successor Tito Vilanova appears to have been a smooth one.

Yet a large, dark and ominous cloud looms. Barca, whose slogan is “More than a club”, have long been regarded as a focus for Catalan nationalism. And it is this force that now threatens its viability as a giant of European and world football.

Recent economic and political turmoil within Spain has given extra momentum to the campaign for an independent Catalonia. Nationalists there have noted how former Soviet and Yugoslav republics have largely succeeded in securing self-determination and a sustainable future.

With a recent pro-independence rally attracting one in four of the region’s population, there is genuine expectation that secession from Spain will happen sooner rather than later.

Although senior figures at Barca have attempted to calm fears of potential expulsion from La Liga in the wake of Catalan independence, their optimism is not universally shared by followers of Spanish football or students of the country’s political history. Reaction of Madrid-based authorities, together with public opinion throughout most of Spain, would be far less sympathetic to the club than its current claims would indicate.

Barca’s room for manoeuvre in the face of potential hostility from the Spanish Football Federation is likely to be somewhat restricted. The club’s insistence on an individual TV rights deal, together with the lack of tradition of mass away support within Spain, means that the financial impact of its withdrawal on other clubs in La Liga would be relatively limited.

The economic consequences of an enforced exile to a Catalonian league which it would be expected to dominate could well be severe for Barca. Its lucrative sponsorship deals and capacity to fund high-profile player contracts would be placed under immediate threat.

However another option may be available. Barca could seek to safeguard its position by holding talks with other top clubs and interested parties on the long-mooted idea of a multinational European league.

Progress of such negotiations would not be easy. The co-operation of UEFA, FIFA and various national associations would be required, and criteria for the admission of clubs to such a competition may also prove to be a sticking point. 

But the disappearance of the continent’s biggest club and footballing asset would hardly serve the interests of the European game. As a result, an agreement to protect the long-term interests of Barca and other top clubs, perhaps with the backing of key corporate partners, is likely to be reached, perhaps including the loss of sovereignty of the main national leagues.

This outcome may not exactly be the preferred option of Barca members or supporters, nor of fans in European football in general. But it may be the one that, within the next few years, we may have to find a way of living with.

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