Can Barca ply their trade in the EPL?

Barcelona and Las Palmas players competing in front of an empty Camp Nou last Sunday due to the club's decision to protest against the heavy-handed approach towards the referendum on Catalan independence.
Barcelona and Las Palmas players competing in front of an empty Camp Nou last Sunday due to the club's decision to protest against the heavy-handed approach towards the referendum on Catalan independence.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

President hints at possibility should region secede but Wenger prefers Scottish inclusion

MADRID • Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has revealed that the club and their members would have to decide which football league to play in if Catalonia gained independence from Spain.

The Catalan club played behind closed doors at the Camp Nou on Sunday, beating Las Palmas 3-0 in LaLiga, as a protest against Spain using force to prevent voters from taking part in a banned referendum to decide the region's fate.

More than 840 people were injured after riot police clashed with some of those attempting to participate in the controversial vote on secession, which the Spanish government had ruled as illegal.

"In the case of independence, the club and the members would have to decide in which league we would play," Bartomeu told reporters on Monday after a board meeting.

"We are going through difficult and complicated moments, and with respect to what could happen in the future, we will take it on with calm and wisdom."

Catalan sports minister Gerard Figueras last week said Barcelona may be able to play in another country should the region achieve independence from Spain.

"In the case of independence, Catalan teams in LaLiga - Barcelona, Espanyol and Girona - will have to decide where they want to play - in the Spanish league or a neighbouring country like Italy, France or the (English) Premier League," he said.

NOT INCONCEIVABLE

Monaco play in France, in England, there are Welsh clubs. I don't think that Uefa has anything against seeing another club play in a different league from their country.

GERARD FIGUERAS, Catalan sports minister, on the fate of the region's football clubs.

"Monaco play in France, in England, there are Welsh clubs. I don't think that Uefa (football's governing body within Europe) has anything against seeing another club play in a different league from their country."

Welsh club Swansea City have been in England's top flight since the 2011-12 season, while Cardiff City were in the Premier League during the 2013-14 campaign.

For Barcelona to join the Premier League, English top-flight clubs have to vote them into the fold.

In 2009, Premier League clubs rejected a plan to bring Celtic and Rangers into England's top flight, but talk of Scotland's most successful clubs being included one day have never completely been silenced.

Last year, the 48-time and 54-time Scottish champions respectively received another setback, however, when the English Football League dismissed the idea of having Celtic and Rangers in the English game amid talk of a revamp that would expand membership from 72 to 80 clubs.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, speaking to reporters after his side's league victory over Brighton on Sunday, suggested that in the event the English Premier League expands, Scottish clubs should get the nod over Barcelona.

"If Barcelona want to join the Premier League, it makes things even more difficult for everybody," the Frenchman said, referring to the "Big Six" and their attempts to win the league.

"But I don't think they have gotten as far as that. It is interesting and there will be incidents on the sporting side as Barcelona are a highly political club.

"I think it will be interesting to see how they respond in the (Spanish) championship. We have enough clubs here with 20, but if you want to go up to 24, we have to invite the Scottish clubs before we go for the Spanish."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2017, with the headline 'Can Barca ply their trade in the EPL?'. Print Edition | Subscribe