By Tony Attwood
Catalonia didn’t actually hold a referendum on independence recently; it held elections to the regional assembly. As a result the main separatist alliance and a smaller nationalist party won 72 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament. So they won most of the seats, although they didn’t get half the vote.
Such things happen; we have governments in the UK all the time that claim to speak for the people because they won most seats, but often have only around 35% of the popular vote. That’s how democracy works, at least in my country.
Still as the BBC put it, “The separatists say the victory gives them a clear mandate to form an independent Catalan state.” The government in Madrid says “no”.
I doubt that too many people are thinking about it, but the president of the Liga de Fútbol Profesional, Javier Tebas, and the Spanish sports minister, Miguel Cardenal have said that if Catalonia gains or just takes independence Barcelona won’t be able to play in the Spanish league.
Which is also a bit sad for RCD Espanyol who mostly play in the top division in Spain, CE Sabadell FC played for 14 seasons in the Primera Division and CE Europa. Europa, Espanyol and Barcelona were founding members of the League. Still I suppose they could play each other and then like Andorra, apply to be in the Champions League qualifying round.
Moving out of Spain though would lose Barcelona its TV revenue for matches against Real Madrid although with that I suspect they would sent up an Iberian Cup and play for that instead.
Barcelona supporters however engage in pro-independence chants in the 17th minute of games to commemorate 1714, when the region lost its autonomy.
Of course no one quite knows what will happen. Clubs do play across national boundaries (Newport, Cardiff, Swansea, Berwick Rangers and Wrexham for example in the UK) but I am not sure if Uefa would give permission (scandals and corruption permitting) or if the Spanish League would want Barcelona back, given how much of the TV money they still get, even after the recent reforms.
And there is the fact that Barcelona is always surrounded by controversy. Being found guilty of child trafficking is one thing, then placing hopelessly lopsided arguments about that in national newspapers across Europe in which they protested their innocence was another. It’s just the endless stream of controversy. They just can’t get it to stop.
In fact recently just when it looked as if it couldn’t get worse a court in Brazil has frozen the assets of Neymar to the tune of over £31m.
The São Paulo federal court pronounced stated that Neymar is said to have evaded tax to the tune of £10.5m between 2011 and 2013 – at which time he moved to Spain. Judge Carlos Muta pronounced that Neymar declared assets worth £3.2m and is now accused of not paying £10.5m tax – and so he froze assets to three times the value to cover fines and interest on the debt. This also stops Neymar selling anything until the case is heard.
Barcelona Football Club was then cited as the source of money Neymar failed to report which is perhaps not surprising as Barcelona have already paid €13m to the Spanish tax authorities over what they described as the taxman’s different “interpretation” of the tax law, as reported earlier on Untold.
Barcelona now are trying to protect their own financial skins and say that they paid Santos €57.1m for Neymar. The state says they actually paid over €80m with the rest of the money moving through a series of different bank accounts and paying arrangements. So the state in Spain says it is owed €12.7m in unpaid tax – quite separately from the tax claimed by Brazil.
Barcelona is sponsored by Qatar Airlines and Nike, Audi, Allianz, Toshiba, EA Sports and by and large they don’t seem to mind these financial dealings and associated controversy, but I suppose one day they might think there is just too much of this going on especially if the prime suspects in the Barcelona tax case, Rosell and Bartomeu (the president and his successor), are found guilty and could face prison terms of seven years and two years respectively. The club could be fined €22m also but I suspect the sponsors will have a whip round.
Josep Maria Bartomeu has seemingly admitted the total cost of the disputed transfer came to €86.2m once additional payments to the player and his family had been included.
So it couldn’t get much worse for Barcelona could it? Well yes, because Lionel Messi is out with a torn ligament in his left knee, and Barcelona have said he will be out for seven to eight weeks. Rafinha is out for six months with a knee injury also.
It’s a tough life when you have been banned from making any signings. Mind you, I expect them to go berserk in the transfer window in January.
But quite how much money will be spent and where it comes from and then goes to, is probably going to be a matter of debate.
The Untold Books
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal