How would a Catalan secession affect FC Barcelona?

Catalonia's bid to break away in recent referendum throws football club's future in Spanish league into jeopardy.

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    The political dispute over an independent Catalonia after a controversial referendum backing secession from Spain has raised questions about the future of the football club, FC Barcelona.

    The Spanish team joined a countrywide strike on Tuesday to protest against "the serious events which took place during the day of the Catalan referendum on independence".

    READ MORE: Latest updates of the Catalonia referendum

    At least 893 civilians and 431 police officers were injured during clashes on October 1, according to regional and national authorities.

    As the violence unfolded, FC Barcelona silently played their home fixture in the Catalan capital against Las Palmas behind the closed doors of an empty Camp Nou stadium.

    La Liga exit?

    More than two million people, or 90 percent of those who cast a ballot, voted "Yes" to Catalonia breaking away from Spain.

    While Catalonia's regional government mulls an independence declaration this week, there is growing opposition to the vote, which had a 42 percent level of turnout, from the central government in Madrid.

    With the region's future hanging in the air, FC Barcelona faces the possibility of an exit from La Liga, Spain's national football league.

    READ MORE: Catalonia independence referendum: All you need to know

    The team currently sits top of the league rankings and has won 24 La Liga titles. 

    The club's president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, has said Barcelona's board will have to consider the option of leaving the national league in the event of Catalonia's split from Spain.

    "The situation concerning Barcelona's future in La Liga does not exist so far," he told reporters on Monday. "But, with regards to what can happen in the future, the board of directors will discuss options."

    He added: "We will find the best solution. If independence happens, we need to discuss things carefully."

    Football analysts say the only way the four-time European champions can remain in the Spanish league following a secession, is if amendments are made to the country's laws.

    "The sports law and the regulations will have to be changed in the Spanish parliament for Barcelona to be accepted in the Spanish league," Guillem Balague, Spanish football journalist, told Al Jazeera.

    "There is no other way for Barcelona to be part of the league after independence."

    Despite speculations of a possible move to the English Premier League (EPL), experts believe the Catalan team's top priority would be to stay in the Spanish league.

    Keeping Barcelona in La Liga is also in the interest of the league and the club's archrival, Real Madrid, said Balague.

    "In the longer term, La Liga without Barcelona would be conceivably too damaging to both the club and the league," said Al Jazeera's sports correspondent Lee Wellings. 

    Other Catalan teams, RCD Espanyol and Girona - both in Spain's first division - also find themselves in a similar boat as Barcelona.

    'Jewel in Catalonia's crown'

    FC Barcelona, famously called Barca, has expressed support for Catalonia's right to choose, but has stayed clear of openly backing the region's independence.

    It is among at least 4,000 signatories of the National Agreement on the Right to Decide and the Referendum Agreement, a group comprising of political parties and civil society organisations in favour of the independence vote.

    Pro-independence supporters in Barcelona chant at the 17th-minute mark at all home games to remember the events of the year 1714 when Catalonia lost its autonomy to Spain in War of Succession.

    Barcelona defender Gerard Pique is among those who has openly voiced his support for an independent Catalonia.

    He is regularly jeered and whistled at on field during national league matches outside of Barcelona and while playing for the Spanish national team. 

    Al Jazeera's Wellings said Pique "is one of those [in the team] most affected by the current situation".

    The team has a large fan base both at home and abroad.

    FC Barcelona has almost 25 million followers on Twitter and more than one billion Facebook likes on its official page.

    "Barcelona does not have the same fan base throughout Spain as Real Madrid," said Wellings.

    "It is the jewel in Catalonia's crown and the popularity outside of the region comes in global recognition. They are one of the world's most successful and popular football clubs, and indeed sports brands."

    Follow Saba Aziz on Twitter: @saba_aziz

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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