Abuja, Oct. 18, 2017 (TNE) FC Barcelona’s hypothetical expulsion from Spanish football in the event of Catalonia breaking away from Spain would leave a huge hole in La Liga.
Real Betis’s general manager Ramon Alarcon said on Wednesday that the development would negatively impact on clubs such as his own.
La Liga president Javier Tebas, a former member of a far right group and strong opponent of Catalan independence, has repeatedly threatened to banish 24-times champions Barca.
He had said and all other clubs in the region would be banned from the Spanish league if Catalonia were to secede.
In the latest sign of the Catalan independence drive impacting sport, Tebas has delayed negotiations to renew the league’s international television rights deal.
This was due to unrest in the wake of Catalonia’s disputed Oct. 1 independence vote.
However, Alarcon said kicking out Barca would have huge ramifications on Spanish football and negatively affect clubs like his.
“The unease that Catalan society could break from Spain affects every sector, including football, and the departure of Catalan teams would be a real shame because they are clubs with a lot of tradition,” Alarcon told Reuters in Madrid.
In addition to FC Barcelona, Catalonia is home to two other La Liga clubs — Girona and Espanyol — as well as a host of clubs in the lower leagues.
“La Liga is not just Real Madrid and Barca. But if Barca left, the other clubs would have to work a lot harder to fill that gap if La Liga were to remain the best in the world.”
Barca, which is owned by more than 140,000 club “members”, says it respects their diversity of opinion by not taking a position for or against independence.
But it has indicated it supports the right of the people of Catalonia to decide their own future.
On Oct. 1, the day of the banned referendum, the team played its match with Las Palmas at the Nou Camp behind closed doors,
Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu had said this was to show opposition to police violence against voters.
After the referendum, the club said in a statement it would not speculate on the future, but was “not planning for any other scenario than playing in the Spanish league.
“The club is competing in this competition and wants to win it.”
Tebas has said Barca’s hypothetical departure would see the value of La Liga’s television rights drop by 20 percent.
Alarcon has no doubt losing Barca would seriously damage the league’s brand and hurt other Spanish clubs such as Betis.
“Having a global brand like La Liga logically helps us, and obviously the success of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona helps the brand of Spain and La Liga,” he said.
Betis, Liga champions in 1935, are one of the best supported clubs in Spain, with 50,000 season ticket holders.
They are ranked fourth, behind Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in social media engagement.
The Seville club are ninth in the standings after making their best start to a season since returning to the top flight in 2015.
They beat champions Real 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu in September.
Alarcon called Betis “a sleeping giant” and hopes they can harness their huge fan base to become one of the top teams in Spain again.
He is however wary of the impact the current political uncertainty in the country could have on his club.
“Tebas has said that [Barca staying in the league if independence were declared] wouldn’t be legal. So, logically it couldn’t happen.
“But sincerely I think FC Barcelona will stay in the Spanish league and we’ll come to an understanding over this situation, which is very painful for everyone.”