Barcelona must remain in La Liga, says club director

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Barcelona’s forward from Argentina Lionel Messi (C) celebrates with Barcelona’s forward from Uruguay Luis Suarez (L) and Barcelona’s forward from France Ousmane Dembele after scoring during the UEFA Champions League Group D football match FC Barcelona vs Juventus at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on September 12, 2017. PHOTO: Josep LAGO / AFP

Barcelona must remain in Spain’s La Liga, club general director Oscar Grau said on Wednesday following the signing by Catalan leaders of a declaration of independence.

“The budgets are based on participation in La Liga. I think that La Liga and Barca must continue together,” Grau told a press conference at the unveiling of the club’s 2016/2017 accounts.

On the eventual impact on Barcelona’s sponsors should the region break away from Spain, Grau said: “Sponsors are very happy to be associated with Barca, with the club’s structure, with its style of play, with its DNA, the values it promotes, and that is an asset we will always maintain.”

Grau was speaking less than 24 hours after Catalan president Carles Puigdemont announced that he had accepted the mandate for “Catalonia to become an independent state” following the contested October 1 referendum.

But in a speech to the Catalan parliament, Puigdemont immediately called for independence to be suspended, to allow for negotiations with Madrid.

La Liga president Javier Tebas has repeatedly insisted that Catalan teams would not be allowed to continue in La Liga after independence.

“If the rebellion succeeds, we will work for a league without Barcelona,” Tebas told BeIN Sports Spain this week.

Tebas’s reasoning is that Spain’s sports law only allows teams from Spain and Andorra to participate in Spanish leagues.

However, a change in legislation could allow Catalan teams to continue and many believe Tebas’s hardline stance could soften should independence be established, not least due to the economic blow that losing Barca could have for La Liga.

Barca have tried to walk a political tightrope by coming out in favour of Catalonia’s right to self-determination, but stopping short of backing independence.

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