El Barça, Franco’s favourite team?

There is no statistical evidence for claims that the Franco government worked for Real Madrid and against Barça.

The claim that Franco sought to benefit Real Madrid at the expense of FC Barcelona is, along with with half-truths like the banning of the language and blatant lies like the banning of the sardana, a key element in Catalanista victimist mythology, and has been readily embraced by innocents from abroad. Here‘s a Chris Nawrat piece for the British Channel 4, based on Jimmy Burns’ Barça: A People’s Passion:

When Franco’s fascist forces finally prevailed over the Republicans in 1939 … Barça, who had narrowly survived the Civil War, came in for a pounding.


Real Madrid – Franco’s team – was to be deified. Officially. State-controlled Spanish television continually showed highlights of Real’s matches and very little of Barça’s, thus generating the notion among the populace that Real were Spain’s team. A Franco stooge Barça president managed to ‘lose’ Alfredo Di Stefano to their arch rivals when they’d already signed him. Di Stefano went on to lead Real to five successive European Cup victories.

The Spanish referees were also got at in a regime of terror. Not only did they favour Real in any encounter with Barça, the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s were also littered with bizarre – and obviously biased – refereeing decisions in other matches involving Barça which cost them championships and Cups. The decisions were so appalling that eventually even a puppet Barça president had the temerity to complain to the Spanish College of Referees. He was ignored.

Etcetera. Here, from Anti-Barcelona.com, is part of the case for the defence:

During the Civil War Real Madrid tried to get away from the front and provide a solution for its professionals by requesting inclusion in the Catalan championship inaugurated on October 4 1936. Given the increase in income this would have meant, all the Catalan clubs participating were enthusiastic, with the exception of Barcelona… [This] earned them the condemnation of all Catalan society, including their own players.

Protectionism. The Barcelona public …, incited by an aggressive press campaign which counted on the collaboration of Juan Antonio Samaranch, resulted in the first displays of sporting terrorism, intimidating Real in their 1943 Cup semi-final away match. Madrid won the subsequent game 11-1.


The Regime’s team. From the end of the Civil War until the arrival at Real Madrid of Alfredo Di Stéfano, Barcelona was the most successful team… At the beginning of the 60s, Barcelona had a large deficit which it decided to pay off with the sale to developers of the old Les Corts ground. Since it was green belt, the council rejected the scheme but, after losing various appeals, the Council of Ministers, presided over by Franco, gave the project the go-ahead… In 1974 the dictator received the club’s 75th Anniversary Gold Medal.

Despite the site’s name, this interpretation is closer to the truth than the version above. Here are two charts showing respectively the absolute (remember that low = good) and relative (Real position – Barça position) league positions of the two teams during the Second Republic and the Franco dictatorship:


  1. Barcelona successes are concentrated in periods of repression (40s, early 50s, early 70s).
  2. Real did better during periods of comparative openness (early 30s, late 50s, 60s).
  3. There is no statistical (or any other) evidence to support claims that Franco or his government intervened to assist Madrid defeat Barça.
  4. The (not particularly impressive) correlation between repression and Barça success could be thought interesting by those who worry about things like that. I suppose the Catalan nationalist-socialists might want to say that this shows the eternal spirit of resistance of the nation, while conspiracy theorists marching to a different drum might speculate that the government fixed results to provide a sporting carrot to accompany the repressive stick.

The closest we will probably get to any clear causal connection relating football results to government policy or Franco’s personal preferences is probably in Atlético’s string of post-war successes, when, as Atlético Aviación, it was sponsored by the armed forces. Allegedly. Here’s a chart of league positions from the period:

The same Santiago Bernabéu hagiography contains an anecdote from the period. Bernabéu escaped murder by the left and fought with the rebels during the war, but this was not, apparently, always enough:

An ardent Spanish patriot, but politically independent, he always kept Real Madrid safe from meddling by the winning side in the Civil War which was prevented from laying hands on our Team thanks to the truly heroic resolution of Don Santiago. Resolution that could have cost him his life when he stood up to no-one less than General Millán Astray, founder of the Legión Española and comrade in arms of General Franco, whose more prominent “deeds” include having been on the point of shooting dead [the philosopher] Don Miguel de Unamuno at the start of the University of Salamanca’s year and having attacked [tango star] Carlos Gardel. Millán Astray was in the VIP box during a match at the [old] Chamartín stadium when he took liberties with the wife of one of the other guests. When Don Santiago heard of the incident, he went up to the VIP box and threw out Millán Astray, forbidding him from entering the stadium. Millán Astray threatened to have Don Santiago killed and only the intervention of the mythical general Muñoz Grandes, under whom Don Santiago served in the Civil War, prevented our having lost our chairman. This act of Don Santiago, completely inconceivable in post-war Spain, raised him to the status of a true hero. The interference of the winners of the Civil War in Spanish sport caused Don Santiago to have various furious confrontations with the hierarchy of the Franco regime during which he always received the full support of Madrid fans, inhibiting the regime from taking reprisals against him such as forcing him to resign. To Don Santiago politics and football were like water and oil and he never allowed them to be mixed artificially. Another example of the personality of Don Santiago was seen in the sports pavilion (today the Pabellón Raimundo Saporta) during a basketball game between Real Madrid and Macabi from Tel-Aviv. During the presentation Don Santiago took off his golden Real Madrid insignia and pinned it on the Israeli general Moshe Dayan who was proud of being a faithful Madrid fan. This unprecedented act caused the wrath of the government, since General Franco’s regime didn’t recognise the state of Israel and it caused the “eternal hatred” of many in the Franquista hierarchy for Don Santiago.

There, some more lies to debunk.

Data here, extracted from League results on this site (manipulate the URL for more detail).

If you copy-paste this post, you’re a worthless twat. Capisce?

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  1. You are a dumbass. Franco and his fascist machine killed our president and forced half our team into exile. Franco did as much as he could to ruin our team, and its a testament to our drive and passion that we survived him. You are truly ignorant.

  2. Have you got any evidence that he tried? Can you explain why an all-powerful dictator should have failed? Why do the stats show Barça doing better during the worst repression?

  3. It makes perfect sense that Franco would favour Barça. Cataluña was a major industrial region and there’s no point in pissing people off unnecessarily. Croat Tito was so successful in Serb-dominated Yugoslavia for the same reason – if you’re good to troublesome minorities they’ll shut up.

  4. I think you both, Geoff and Trevor, should read something, I don’t know exactly what but it should be quickly, before your brain helplessly dries out. First and last of all, if you need an evidence just look back on History: the president of the FC Barcelona WAS KILLED BY FASCISTS at the very begining of the war. That’s enough, isn’t it?
    The reason why who you call the ‘all-powerfull dictator’ did fail is basically because he was incredibly moron!
    Besides, we haven’t been struggling againts fascists to end up trying to convince of the true facts to a bunch of just landed Pommies

  5. FC Barcelona says that Suñol was killed because of his political activities–he was a prominent separatist. (I am told that the trainer of Espanyol was taken away from the ground and shot by anarchists at the beginning of the war, but again it had little or nothing to do with football: his sister was a nun.) If you’ve got any evidence to the contrary (or to support the ridiculous Franco-hated-Barça claim), I’m sure you’ll produce it.

  6. … Sunyol was killed…fine I’ll admit that

    ..what about our president president Rafael Sánchez Guerra, a prominent Republican, was imprisoned and tortured his VP was arrested & Murderd, the Club treasurer was Prisoned & Murdered
    why do people forget what happened to Real Madrid as well
    so now tell me who suffered more???

    Barca keep their lies around the glob no one stands for Real Madrid..

    the team was forced to exile because
    1- there was a Civil war so they ran for safety reasons nothing more
    2- the liga was supended for 4 bloody years
    so it made no affect what so ever on Barca.

  7. It seems fairly obvious that Real suffered at least as much as Barça, but is there another team out there that thinks it did even worse?

  8. Wikipedia says about Di Stefano:

    On 1953, Di Stéfano signed a deal with FC Barcelona and the FIFA authorized the transfer from River Plate, the club that still had his rights, but the Spanish Federation did not. On May 13, 1953, he arrived to Spain to sign his contract with Barcelona but, during the troubles with the Federation, Real Madrid’s president Santiago Bernabéu convinced him to sign for them. Additionally, Real Madrid had negotiated with Millonarios.

    On September 15, the Spanish Federation made public its decision to allow Di Stéfano four seasons in Spain, two in each team, to be played alternately. Barcelona protested and finally renounced on October 23. The reasons of this decision are different on each side. While the Real Madrid has always maintained it was a voluntary decision of Barcelona, their rivals denounced pressure from the Spanish dictatorial government. This incident exacerbated the traditional enmity between the two clubs. Di Stéfano finally debuted with Madrid on September 23.

  9. No one knows who killed Sunyol. He went with some other guys to the Madrid front to do some war tourism while carrying a large sum of money. They were all found dead and the money was gone, so it could have equally been Republican gangsters in the know.

  10. Dear friends,
    Dictator Franco in my modest opinion was fun of Real Madrid. I am sorry that I cannot read anything about Barcelaona s best team, of 1960s. They lost final match vs Benfica, but no one can forget fantastic players such as Cocsis, Csibor, Evaristo, Cubala, although Laci did not play in Zurich.

  11. “…half-truths like the banning of the language …”
    I married a Catalan woman. We had to notorize her birth certificate to marry. Her birth certificate was in Castellano and later, Catalan. Why? Because of the evil dictatorship of Franco. Trevor, thanks for the provocation, but you make things sound like they didn’t happen. You are very wrong, and need to talk to more Catalan and merengue fans to who lived through the cruel dictator’s reign.


  13. “On 1953, Di Stéfano signed a deal with FC Barcelona and the FIFA authorized the transfer from River Plate, the club that still had his rights, but the Spanish Federation did not. On May 13, 1953, he arrived to Spain to sign his contract with Barcelona but, during the troubles with the Federation, Real Madrid’s president Santiago Bernabéu convinced him to sign for them. Additionally, Real Madrid had negotiated with Millonarios.”

    So when the FC Barcelona webpage itself lies about what it really happened what can we expect from them?

    River Plate DID NOT hold Di Stefano’s rights in 1953. It was Millonarios de Bogotá who held them, at least until the beggining of 1955. As Barcelona had agreed a deal with River Plate and Real Madrid had done the same with Millonarios we could be said that both clubs shared Di Stefano’s rights. Both Barcelona and Real Madrid accepted the same man who had helped Barcelona in their purchase of Kubala some years before than that, as an intermediary to solutionate the problem. So as a salomonic choice the player would play two seasons in Real Madrid and the other two at Barcelona. Marti Carreto had to resign because of the numeorus critics from both staff of directives and fans and Barcelona refused to share the player, so Real Madrid had to pay Millonarios, River Plate and Barcelona to finally get the player.

  14. The Francoist regime hated FC Barcelona that much, that rezoned Barça’s ground in Les Corts THREE TIMES during the 50s and 60s, which clearly saved the Catalan club from going bankrupted in that age.

    On the contrary, Bernabeu’s plan to rezone Real Madrid’s stadium and build new bigger one on a different area was rejected by Francoist authorities just a few years later.

    Common sense and cule propaganda just don’t fit well together, do they? Why are there so many lies and half-truths on internet about this matter? It’s not a difficult question to answer I can assure so…

  15. I can’t say for the immediate after war but I lived in Barcelona from 1962 to 1976.

    In 1962, taht is before the 1964 referendum (after it regime begn to soften itself) there were plenty of stations like Congreso, Maragall, Las Corts, Casanova who referred either to catalanist figures (Maragall) or to figures from the 170x raising who were later “assimilated” by the nationalists (Casanova, who told explicitly that he had raised for all of Spain’s freedom).

    In radio there was a broadcast called “Voice of Sardana”. I don’t recall if it was in Catalan or in Spanish. And in 1965 (it was then that I got the opportunity to watch TV at an uncle’s house) there was a TV broadcast in catalan called “Mere Nostrum” using the frequencies, emitters and studios from national TV (in those times regular TV didn’t broadcast during afternoon, so 3Mare Nostrum” was emitted in that free time). In other words the state owned TVE was paying brodacasts in catalan

  16. I am half Spanish. My grandpa was from Madrid and grandma from Lerida, Catalonia. They had to go to exile after the war and could not return till Franco died. Many relatives were killed and/or tortured. Still, Barcelona won eight titles during that era, so please, spare me these Barca-suffering nonsense. Franco is dead, keep him buried.

  17. Very thought provoking article.
    I have long believed that Franco’s Patronage secured Real the position it did in European football, but having read up on the matter I can see that this is false.
    Real’s success was due to good management, innovative ideas, and good teambuilding and coaching from the likes of Bernebeu et al, and the Franco had little and probably nothing to do with it.

  18. Very interesting article. Some more facts: Narcis de Carreras was the 1968-69 president of FC Barcelona while working in the dictatorship Goverment Court as a “procurador” (an equivalent to today’s democracy parliamentaries)…Most of spanish football fans, particularly the Barcelona ones, tend to “forget” this kind of facts. I think that Barcelona supporters have tend to use the misinterpretation of history as a kind of agit-prop aiming to discredit the Real Madrid image, both national and international, justifying that way their inferiority.

    People tend to confront catalonian nacionalism to Franco, but that’s not the complete truth. The “Lliga Regionalista de Catalunya “, an important conservative catalanist party, supported not only Franco’s dictatorship but even the Primo de Rivera’s coup d’état in 1923. ¿The reason? They feared a communist spanish republic. Narcis de Carreras was the secretary of one of la Lliga most important leaders: Francisco Cambó.

  19. wow.. reading this is amazing what “bullshit” people can say about each other..

    ok you like statistic.. the statistic says that General Franco did not worry about sports until late 50’s when he realize that he can control people whith such an events (this is documented and has been also shown in a documentaries)

    also you will like to see what happened on Chamartín (spanish Cop1942/1943) ???? when Franco sent one of his guys to the barcelona and one to the referee to “suggest” them that this game should be won by Madrid..

    or the Di Stefano issue?? is known in the news papers now that it was Barcelona president who finally said we dont want him, after some “mixed up” papers, and the regim adivsed that he could play in both teams, the truth, he got a “visit” from Francos guys on a night while he was in Madrid for business and they advised him that if he will not leave Di Stefano to Madrid, he will have regular visits to his bussiness to check all is ok.. NOOOO Franco was Clearly at favor to Barcelona.

    when all you guys say that thanks to Franco Barcelona go money from their old stadium and that saved BCN’s life, then you are more retarded that what i tought,as it took him 10 years, which was exactly thetime when barcelona lost so much money, if they had this at the first year, probably they will never have suffered, like we could not buy players etc etc.. so it took him 10 years to do so!!! of course all this time we suffered a lot since we could not even look at new players and only the ones from our B team wehre able to go to the first!

    Franco saw the good of using the Sports and decided to use Madrid for his porposal of being a Great country in front of the world!! is a fact and has been documented so dont know why you are aruguing about it!

  20. look regarging the copa, was General Moscardo who advised Barcelona players not to fight too much in the field, the reason for that was that in the in the first leg, camp de les corts had a “very catalan” atmosphere and that disgusted the “spanish” players, next day many local and Madrid Newspapers wrotte about this matter advising that Barcelona had to put a stop or they will be banned (as it didnt, they were banned 6months, reduced to 3 later on)
    there is a documentary by the history channel called franco and real madrid or something like that where they show interviews etc and why franco politised the football, they also said that everytime he took a “delicated” decision, it was a Great match on tv so people were not going to the streets to protest, he also used the power of the TV for that, he as matter of fact took out the Spanish team of the Eurocup because they has to play against Russia wich was his biggest opponent due to his new friends the EEUU..

    Trevor there is a lot of evidence about that, and i understand that Real Madrid fans do not want to admit, but the proves are there and historically has been so..

    we can also say that Barcelona gave 2 condecorations to Franco, yes of course, fools are we not.. after seen the way Franco use to solve delicated probles, and knowing that Barcelona fans were very opposite to Francos mentality, they were risking the existanceo of the club, therefore they have to keep him “happy”

    he did not even go to the Camp Nou inaguration because he did tought that it was not an important isuue!! and it was good so, becuase i thing after that day Franco would have permanently Banned FC Barcelona!!

  21. A History Channel account of mid-20th century Spain with Gary Lineker as the principal source? Give me a break. Although I rather liked the bit near the beginning which described the church of Felipe Neri as riddled with bullet holes. That’s shrapnel damage.

    Have you got any serious contribution to make?

  22. Trevor..

    then give me some proove that it was not, was not only lineker on the documentaryit was a bit longer the original but anyway..this can be called selected memory..which most of the Real Madrid fans suffer, yo only remember what you guys want

    as you say..”FC Barcelona says that Suñol was killed because of his political activities-he was a prominent separatist”

    and you think then is that a reason to kill him? i mean you then justify that he was killed..so we have to kill now half of Catalonia because their toughts of separatism? where is the right to say what you thing then? at that time, almost all Barcelona Fans were Republicans, that is why Franco hated them so much..he went most of the Madrid Games, and he did not even like soccer and he did not even go to the inagural day of camp now!! because there was one of the only corners where you cold speak catalan without being banned.. and Franco hated that also

    and again.. i know that NOT only Barcelona Suffered from that, the rest of teams did also, first example is when plaza was on charge or the Referees, RM won 11 of 13 titles and At Madrid the other 2.. when he left (he was away in 2 periods)then R Madrid won 2 FC Barcelona won another 2, la Real sociedad also won 2, Atletico de Bilbao also won 2, Valencia won 1 and Atletico de Madrid won also 1.. Hum..and that is NOT Suspicios? without saying that self referees said at that time, one was public and very polemic, that plaza said, while im on charge of the Referees Barcelona will not win any league, indeed we didnt!!

    “but again it had little or nothing to do with football”

    actually it had.. and BIG TIME!!! otherwise why will Franco intervent Di Stefano purchase? why would him sent General Moscardo in the final cup of 42/43 or replace all management from the soccer statements and put his own ones??

  23. lol. Whatever Mr Trevor. You are using a website called Anti-barcelona.com as a source ffs!

  24. @Xtian: Suñol seems to have been killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time with a republican flag or something of that nature. I don’t think there is any evidence that anyone knew who he was, let alone that he was killed because of his relationship with Barça. That doesn’t mean that I approve of killing people who carry flags, although the thought has occurred to me. If you’ve got anything coherent to say with evidence to back it up, then I’ll happily reply.

    @Lluis: I quote Anti-Barcelona.com with clearly stated reservations, but point out that the version of history favoured by that particular drop-in group for the paranoid demented is actually closer to the empirical truth than the Balkan-style saga apparently chanted in the FC Barça Hystorical Loony Bin.

  25. trevor.. i just say that if franco hasnt begin this stupid war.. Sunye would have never been in any wrong place at any wrong time..

    i can only say.. WHATEVER!! if this Anti-barcelona is where you take your information, and you with stated reservations thinks that is true, or more closer to the empirical Truth..that make sense taht you think that RMadrid was always clean and that Franco was a good nice guy.. congrat..

  26. Ok Trevor.
    Just keep on asking for “evidence”. What is it that you want really? Images recorded with a camcorder? I’m sorry I don’t have that. However were YOU there when it happend? I was. You probably were not. My uncle was jailed (and serioulsy abused there) for speaking his mind in his own language. The language he, just like some other millions of people, allways spoke since he was born. I’ve seen things that go behind your imagination. And that’s exactly what I find so very sad about your article. You have absolutly no idea about what happend in Catalunya during the dictatorship, yet you are referring to it as “half-truths” and posting about it on the internet like it is all just a fairy tale made up by some people just to make a football club look bad.
    You know, I once had a hefty discussion with someone neglecting the holocaust. Just like you he kept asking me for “evidence”. I couldn’t give him any, since I wasn’t born back then, and I didn’t have my camcorder with me when it happend…
    Why did I even bother. I’m not going to wast any more time trying to talk to someone wearing all-white-tainted glasses who doesn’t have a clue what he is talking about. I just hope I don’t come against any insulting slash crap articles like this any more.
    Have a nice life living in denial as a Madridista. Or not. Whatever… Trevor…

  27. Evidence doesn’t have to be on video. Long before camcorders people used to write documents and books, and they too can be used as evidence. That’s how history gets written. You say you were there (where? did you kill Suñol?!), and if you had something to say then that too might be satisfactory evidence. My evidence from football results suggests that FC Barça was not affected adversely by the Franco regime.

  28. “My evidence from football results suggests that FC Barça was not affected adversely by the Franco regime.”


    almost felt of my chair.. nooo absolutely not.. General Moscardo was a really good guy actually and franco spoke also catalan in the intimity!

    keep on seen Anti-Barcelona.com and you may also realse that they all lie to us.. Franco was not a Dictator. he was actually a Missunderstood democrat who basically went town to town advising his propaganda of new goberment. and it was soo good that the oponents did decide to make a colective suicide becuase they knew they will never be able to win..

  29. “Long before camcorders people used to write documents and books, and they too can be used as evidence. That’s how history gets written”

    just to add to this.. sadly the history has been always been written by the wineers and manipulated by them, and most of the times they use to destroy their oponents prooves and writtten documents, so yes.. as i said.. as per written.. Franco was indeed a good guy.. no? also Hitler was?? there were not written document signed by him that he order the Jews massacre, nothing ,all what they had was burned before they got cought and only from interviews later from people who lived that date they could actually see what really happened.. that is the story that gets written.. if you believe in that then you also probably believe that there were mass destruction weapons in Irak.. congratulations..

  30. The funny thing about the Spanish Civil War is that history has mostly been written by those who identify with the losers. Some of it’s very good, but a lot of it is very bad. Jimmy Burns, Gary Lineker et al fall into the latter category.

  31. Well, Xtian is a holocaust denier and also apparently a complete and utter moron so I wouldn’t take anything he says very seriously.

  32. The incidents in the second leg of the 1943 Cup game were denied by some of the Barcelona players. Also there are many contradictions in the different versions of this story coming from the blaugrana side. Truth is not interesting, only that a myth gets propagated.

  33. Interesting article (as the other about sardanas, possibly even more interesting). I like the fact that you try to go beyond the usual Catalan stories. However, I have some doubts on your methods.
    In particular, the statistics used this way does not prove much! Except that Franco was not pushing Real Madrid in such a strong way to ensure complete victory in the Liga. It does not (and it cannot) prove anything about direct or indirect influences on the fairness of the Liga.
    (Similar point about Catalan language: to reduce the use of Catalan it is not necessary to threaten Catalan-speaking people with death, less direct methods could suffice!)
    Let’s put it clear: your claims could be correct, but I think they are unsubstantiated. I think that history as counted by Catalan people is quite deformed, by I wouldn’t call it a myth, probably they are just exaggerations. Unfortunately I don’t know much of Spanish football history, so I don’t have a position on the Franco-Real Madrid issue and cannot bring much more to the discussion…

  34. My only claim is that empirical research shows that Jimmy Burns’ hypothesis is a load of bollocks. For all I know, football results in the mid-20th century may have been influenced by politicians in subtler ways, or by the operations of the zodiac, or whatever, and if anyone wants to propose hypotheses along those or other lines I’ll be happy to look at ways of testing them.

  35. If your claim is that those reports are exaggerated, I can only agree with you. My point is that it is not possible to reject or prove claims about some influence by Franco (or others) on the Liga based on your plot, unless this influence is very strong.
    Just an example: this is a list of the team winners of a championship:
    J, K, K, S, K, W, K, O, N, J, O, T, N, N, N, K, N, K, K, N, K, K, N, M, S, K, K, N, K, K, J, J, J, J
    One of these teams has been able to exert a relevant influence on referees, market etc for some years (say 4 years) changing the regularity of the championship. Would you be able to spot which team and when? I guess you cannot, unless you go to Wikipedia… :)
    Your arguments about Sardanas were much stronger.

  36. Just to clarify: I think that you are probably right that Franco did not influence much las Ligas in those years… but he (or others) could have done it and still it would be difficult to prove or disprove!

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