It often seems that FC Barcelona are used as a vehicle for the promotion of Catalan independence, openly permitting the display of slogans like “Catalonia is not Spain” and other symbols of the movement for Catalan independence. Strange this, as so many of their fans and players are Spanish. The directors of the club seem to encourage this, probably as part of the overall rivalry with “centralist” Madrid.
The question of Catalan independence is front page news these last few days. Hundreds of thousands of Catalans made their sentiments clear last weekend during the “Diada Nacional de Catalunya” (Catalonia National Day). The politicians fan the flames as it suits them. I expect that in part this is to divert attention from their inept handling of the economy and never-ending list of corruption cases (no party is free of blame, however much they like to point their finger at the other side). After the “Diada” Catalan president Artur Mas declared (in English) that unless Spain gave them full control over revenue, that (and in English is sounded like a threat) “all options will be open to us”. Yesterday Mas met with Spanish president Mariano Rajoy in Madrid. Rajoy gave a clear “no” the demand for fiscal sovereignty, to which Mas reacted that “with this Catalonia cannot achieve its aspirations as a country and as a people”, and again utter the veiled threat that “all options are open”. His party, CiU are clearly set on Catalan independence as the final goal. But can Catalonia and Spain gain anything from separation? Or like Real Madrid and Barcelona are they so reliant on each other that a separation would be extremely traumatic? Both football clubs, like conjoined twins, share vital organs.
Of course the independence demands put FC Barcelona president Sandro Rosell in an uncomfortable position. His talk of “doing whatever the socios want” is really sitting on the fence big time. What happened to all the anti-Madrid bluster? Is he scared?
The Catalan stance seems to be “we want independence, but only on what we say”, and that if there is Catalan independence then FCB would continue to play in la Liga. So they want their cake and to eat it too. This would suit Real Madrid, as the status quo would be maintained, the two would continue to feed off the rivalry, that may even become more intense. But what if the LFP decided that independence really means that, and that FCB would have to compete in a Catalan, not Spanish, league? Surely matches against Sabadell, Girona and Figueras are nowhere near as attractive as against Real Madrid, Valencia or Seville? Would Messi and Mascherano stay? Could FCB afford to keep them? How would Real Madrid live without their alter-ego?
It could also be the perfect opportunity for “La Liga” to become a really competitive league and to divide TV money up more fairly. I know it is very simplistic to think that La Liga would be as attractive without FCB. Nowadays it seems people prefer to see Real Madrid or Barcelona destroy a rival by 4, 5 or 6 goals rather than a competitive game. But what if there was a Liga where 4 or 5 teams were in the shake up? Could the massive gap between Madrid – FCB and the rest (recently above 30 points) be in fact a contributing factor to the poor TV deals abroad (compared to the Premier league) as the Liga is seen as a foregone conclusion? If Barcelona’s 140 million euro TV money was split up amongst the rest (excluding Real Madrid) would we have a more competitive league? Or would it just mean Real Madrid winning year after year after year?
I suspect, in case of Catalan independence, the LFP would take the easy route and let FCB play in La Liga, and the two giants would continue to share the spoils (trophies and TV money) way into the future, as their power here is all consuming. Real Madrid and FCB (like conjoined twins, joined at the head) just can’t live without each other, so I don’t think they’ll have to do so any time soon. I’d say the more likely split is Spain and Catalonia.