After Catalunya declared independence from Spain on Friday, Goal takes a look at how the political situation could affect football in the region
Politics and sport could again come into conflict this weekend in Spain amid the ongoing Catalan independence question and how it will affect La Liga.
On Friday, Catalunya officially declared its independence from Spain following a controversial referendum on October 1, which was deemed illegal by the Spanish government. Meanwhile, the Spanish Senate voted to seize direct control of the region.
After violence from Spanish police during the referendum, Barca decided to play their Liga match against Las Palmas behind closed doors and with Real Madrid in action against Girona in Catalunya this weekend, there has been talk of a possible postponement of that fixture.
Barcelona, meanwhile, are away this weekend at Athletic Club, with Espanyol at home to Betis on Monday. Here, Goal takes a look at how those matches could be affected…
COULD THE MATCHES BE POSTPONED?
While Barcelona’s match on October 1 was not cancelled, but instead played behind closed doors as a protest following brutal violence by the Spanish police, there is a possibility that may not be an option for Sunday’s Girona-Real Madrid contest.
Officials fear possible clashes in Catalunya and police are studying the possible effects of Friday’s independence declaration and the possible effects on the fixtures involving Catalan clubs and Madrid sides this weekend.
A report from radio station Onda Cero claimed security concerns had put the status of the Girona-Real Madrid match in jeopardy. However, neither of the teams have been notified of a postponement, and it seems the plan is currently to go ahead with the fixtures as planned. In fact, Girona’s president Delfi Geli indicated the club absolutely intends to play.
“Everything is being prepared for the game to be played. It would be played normally and it would be a party for all the fans,” Geli told Radio Marca after the independence announcement.
Prior to the announcement, Girona mayor Marta Madrenas downplayed the possibility of violence, saying: “There’s no reasons for being afraid of anything happening during the game. We are civilised people.”
WHEN COULD THE MATCHES BE MADE UP?
If a postponement does occur, finding an opportunity to replay the contests may prove difficult, especially for Real Madrid.
Los Blancos already have to make up another match — against Leganes in December — because of the Club World Cup.
Midweek dates of January 17 and 24 might be a possibility for clubs who are knocked out of the Copa del Rey, but Madrid are unlikely to be among those. January 31 and February 7 would be a possibility if Real Madrid are eliminated from the Champions League before the quarter-final stage, but that also seems improbable.
There would be two weeks in February and March that do not correspond with the Copa del Rey or the Champions League, so it’s possible Madrid might be able to make up the match against Leganes and a postponed date with Girona on those days.
WILL BARCELONA’S GAME BE AFFECTED?
With Barcelona away to Athletic Club, in theory, there should be no issues with their match on Saturday night.
However, it may be interesting to see the reaction of the crowd at the game as Athletic Club is situated in the Basque Country — a region which also has a significant separatist movement.
Fans at San Mames could therefore show support to Catalunya, while there may also be calls for Basque independence during the match.
HOW WILL THIS AFFECT BARCELONA AND LA LIGA?
One of the questions that is always raised amid talk of possible Catalan independence is what would happen to FC Barcelona and also La Liga.
Current rules mean no team from outside Spain could feature in La Liga and that has led to speculation of a possible Catalan league featuring Barcelona, Espanyol and other clubs from the region such as Girona, Gimnastic Tarragona and Lleida. Indeed, LFP president Javier Tebas has said that Barca could not remain in La Liga if independence is confirmed.
However, teams from Andorra have been allowed to compete with Spanish sides in basketball and given Barcelona’s importance to La Liga, it is extremely likely the rules would be changed in order to allow Catalan clubs to keep on competing in Spain.
If not, there has been talk of Barcelona moving to a different competition, such as Ligue 1 in France or the Premier League in England. The possibility of the Blaugrana joining Real Madrid in a European Super League also cannot be ruled out, but the most likely scenario is for things to stay as they are now.
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Barca manager Ernesto Valverde perhaps summed it up best when speaking at a press conference, saying: “Everyone has their responsibility and mine is to try to get my team to win. Momentarily, (being removed from La Liga) is not happening yet. We are talking about an assumption.
“I follow what happens here, I have my own personal opinion. But I focus on sports.
“A league without Barca? The only thing I know is that tomorrow we have a league game, we will try to win.”