Xavier Vinyals, President of the Pro Catalan Sport: Xavier Vinyals, President of the Pro Catalan Sports Teams Platform

Xavier Vinyals, President of the Pro Catalan Sport
Xavier Vinyals, President of the Pro Catalan Sports Teams Platform
Xavier Vinyals, President of the Pro Catalan Sport
Xavier Vinyals, President of the Pro Catalan Sports Teams Platform

After some years of quietness, the Platform comes back to the foreground of current events, why?
The Pro Catalan Sports Teams Platform is a non profit-making association that was born on May 5, 1998, with a very clear aim: to obtain international recognition for Catalan Sports Teams. The long path to normality started with the collection of signatures of Catalan citizens, so that, by means of a popular legislative initiative, we could make the Parliament of Catalonia modify the sports law so that it would make our federations come close to their definitive international recognition. This campaign was a total and absolute success that concluded with over half a million supports. Obviously, the law was changed. After that great victory, we considered that it was time for politicians. Unfortunately, things have not progressed as Catalonia’s people had claimed and this is why the Platform has decided to recuperate its leading role in favour of Catalan Teams. We have a new board of management that I have the honour to preside and we have started a new stage. We have many new things: a new head office; a webpage; a process of decentralisation of our structure with the opening of new territorial delegations in Girona, Tarragona, Lleida and the Terres de l’Ebre; and there is the will to reactivate the popular defence of the right of Catalan Federations to international recognition.

As you just recalled, in 1998 the Platform gathered over half a million signatures for Catalan Sports Teams. What is left of that popular mobilisation?
Thanks to that campaign, we normalised the claim of Catalan Teams. Previously, defending the right to have official sports teams seemed the obsession of a few radical individuals; now, this claim involves almost all sectors of Catalan society. With the campaign to gather signatures, the defence of the internalisation of our teams became transversal. Few things unite as much as Catalan Teams do. Before the campaign, we could not even think about generating this cohesion. In fact, all parties except PP (Popular Party) are in favour of Catalan Teams. It was one of the most important mobilisations that have taken place in our country since the transition to democracy. 525,000 signatures is enormous.

Despite this broad support, until now the process has been long and difficult. What has to be done to make progress?
The international recognition of Catalan Teams is the only first-rank national aim that does not depend on Madrid. To attain most national aims, like for example to have a new Statute, we have to go through Madrid. In order to obtain the recognition of our teams we do not need Spanish institutions at all; it is very important to make this clear. Catalonia must look directly to the rest of the world, without intermediaries. Sports federations are private law associations that do not depend on any government. Those who vote in favour or against the admission to a specific federation are the representatives of other federations. In this respect, for a long time our politicians have not been doing the right thing: we must convince the other federations and not the Spanish Government. We must put an end to the fixed idea of an agreement with Madrid.

Once it is clear for us that the aim is to convince international federations, what is the next step?
If this is clear, everything will be easier because we will not waste time with useless negotiations in Madrid. We have to travel all over and explain our strategy of internationalisation of our teams. The other federations should know why we want to have our own teams. We are strong enough to defend our stand, for a whole people are with us. What other country has gathered over half a million signatures to ask for its own sports teams? None. Which other country fills sports halls and football stadiums to see friendly matches? Very few.

What would you say to the people who think that to obtain international recognition for Catalan Teams is a Utopia?
We already have Catalan Sports Teams competing. They are minority sports, small federations, but nevertheless recognised ones, and this is what counts. Catalonia already competes in Korfball, in Pitch and Putt, in Mountaineering, in Body Building, in Twirling and in Indoor Football. Furthermore, I want to make clear something that I believe is very important: additional legal proof of the fact that the recognition of our teams is possible may be found in the events that happened in Miami, Macao and Fresno. Legally speaking, Catalonia was B world champion of hockey on skates. In Fresno, everything went wrong, but a vote was attained; therefore, the process that our federation started was legal. I want to say this because for a long time those who did not want official Catalan teams made use of the argument of illegality. Now they cannot do it anymore.

What might the Rome assembly mean in this whole process?
Rome is a new opportunity. It is very difficult to obtain admission because we are in a more difficult situation than in Fresno. However, when faced with these great difficulties, we must surpass ourselves. If the Rome assembly ends up well, we will have the waybill for the future, we will have found the right path to do things and, therefore, we will repeat the process in other federations. Federations need a favourable environment to work and to ask for their admission to international federations. Our political parties and our institutions should help them, mainly, with financial aid.

To conclude, the project of the new Statute expresses the claim of the official status for Catalan Teams?
The project of the new Statute that was approved by the Parliament of Catalonia with the support of 120 deputies expresses exactly the claims of the Platform. Article 134 of section 1b states: “The Generalitat (Catalan Autonomous Government) has exclusive powers with regard to sports, which by all means includes: the fostering of the projection abroad of Catalan sport to guarantee that Catalan federations participate in official competitions at a European and international level by means of National Sports Teams. Article 201 states: “The Generalitat must promote the international projection of the social, cultural and sports associations of Catalonia and, if appropriate, their affiliation to similar associations at an international level, within the framework of the fulfilment of its aims”.