Catalans go to the polls on Sunday which is being widely interpreted as a referendum on Catalan independence. It is possible that the new government will seek to initiate discussions with the Spanish government in Madrid about holding a full referendum which could lead to a separation a few years down the line.
This raises a lot of important political and economic questions (and not a few spectres) about the future of Europe. One of them is the following: what would this mean for Barca? Would they continue to play in the Spanish league? If Rangers are not allowed to play in the Premier League (even though for the moment they are both in the same country), it would be odd to allow Barca to play in a foreign country.
One comparison would be Monaco, which plays in the French league, but really Monaco is a very small principality whereas Catalonia would be a fairly significant state. Of course, national pride might lead the Catalans to set up their own league, but this would pose problems for Barca- they would no longer have el Clasico, and a Catalan league might be even more impoverished than La Liga.
This is by no means the first time that the issue of cross border movements has arisen, but surely never for a more prominent global power (apologies to Rangers, Celtic, Ajax, Porto….). My guess is that (a) they would stay in La Liga and (b) no one would complain. So why can’t the above mentioned clubs get together and form an Atlantic League as they proposed a few years ago? UEFA takes the position that clubs are free to move across borders to play in leagues (they recently sanctioned a Belgian-Dutch women’s league) so long as their national associations agree.
The point is that a newly minted Catalan football association in UEFA would be happy to see Barca continue to play in La Liga, while the football associations of Scotland, Netherlands, Portugal and elsewhere generally do not want their biggest clubs to desert the national league. I’m not sure this is either consistent or fair. So far the clubs have railed against it but not dared to do more, but if Europe remains mired in economic austerity the financial pressures for realignment are likely to increase.
People, not least me, have talked about superleagues for years and they have not happened. A few years ago I changed my mind, on the logic that the EPL with their global aspirations are leaving behind all but a very few teams in Europe. I think the full results of the sale of international EPL broadcast rights, when we hear them in a month or two, will confirm this logic. But the remaining big clubs in Europe may yet be drawn to a Superleague without England (that sounds like normal European politics). Just as recession is threatening to break-up Spain, recession may drive the clubs to insist on change that they were not prepared to fight for in better economic times.