Barça move out of Camp Nou heavy-hearted


Barcelona to leave the Camp Nou Image: Coliseum GSVA

Just before 11 pm local time, more than two hours after the final whistle in FC Barcelona’s 3-0 LaLiga victory against Real Mallorca on May 28th, the lights went out at the old Spotify Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain.

‘ESPN’ stated that Barcelona’s home since September 1957 will be partially demolished in the coming weeks, and the team will play across the City at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys while it is being redeveloped.

Futbol Club Barcelona, commonly referred to as Barcelona and colloquially known as Barça, is a professional football club based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, that competes in LaLiga, the top flight of Spanish football.

The Camp Nou, branded as Spotify Camp Nou for sponsorship reasons, is the home of LaLiga club FC Barcelona since its completion in 1957. With a current seating capacity of 99,354, it is the stadium with the largest capacity in Spain and Europe, and the second largest football stadium in the world.

‘ESPN’ further stated that the new stadium will be the centerpiece of a spectacular €1.5billion-plus (£1.3bn, $1.6bn) Espai Barça project, which will open up the ground to its surroundings and boast the latest in technology and sustainability.

The Espai Barça development plan goes well beyond modernization and reconstruction of FC Barcelona’s home venue Spotify Camp Nou. In addition to increasing the capacity of the current stadium to 105,000 from circa 99,000 and completely revamping the current structure of Spotify Camp Nou, the Espai Barça project entails building a new Palau Blaugrana with a capacity of 15,000, an additional court with a capacity of 2,000, an ice rink, a new social area, a new commercial area, revamped club offices, La Masía (read FC Barcelona’s youth academy), and an additional 5,000 parking spots.

The stadium that has been the home of Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, and many other legends of the game will be redeveloped over the next 18 months following years of decay. Barça President Joan Laporta says once the revamp is finished, the Catalan club will have “the best ground in the world”.

Over 88,000 fans were present to bid farewell to the aging stadium, which originally opened in 1957. Barça commemorated the occasion with a video of some of the venue’s most historic moments – with Messi’s show reel enticing fans to bellow his name around Camp Nou in the hope of seeing him back at the club next season – before signing off with a pitch display, dance routines, live music, confetti, and fireworks on May 28th.

The renovation work actually started during the midseason break for Qatar 2022. A large section of a stand behind one of the goals was removed, reducing the capacity in the second half of the season from 99,000 to 94,000. Now, with the campaign ending, the much-needed modernization of the stadium will be set in motion.

Camp Nou History

Barça moved into Camp Nou in the Les Corts area of Barcelona 66 years ago.

Years of history have followed. In 1960, they became the first team to knock the five-time winners Real Madrid CF out of the European Cup there.

More recently, the Camp Nou has provided the stage for Messi’s mastery, a manita (a five-goal win) against Real Madrid CF in 2010, the Pep Guardiola years as the Manager and then the coach’s return as the Bundesliga giant FC Bayern Munich (Germany) boss in 2015 and, last year, the stadium twice broke the attendance record for a women’s football game. The current record, 91,648, was set in the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Women’s Champions League semifinal against the German women’s football club VfL Wolfsburg Women.

There have been non-Barça moments as well. The opening game of the 1982 World Cup was played at the Camp Nou, as was the final of the men’s football tournament at the 1992 Olympic Games. It also hosted the Premier League club Manchester United F.C’s (UK) remarkable late turnaround against Bayern Munich to win the 1999 Champions League final and become the first English club to win the Treble (a situation where a team wins three trophies in a single season).

Cruyff Charisma

In 1973, the Dutch football player Johan Cruyff moved to FC Barcelona for a world record transfer fee, helping the team win LaLiga in his first season and winning the Ballon d’Or (annual football award). In 180 official matches for Barcelona, he scored 60 goals and provided 83 assists. Regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, he won the Ballon d’Or three times, in 1971, 1973 and 1974. Cruyff passed away in 2016.

Why is Camp Nou Closing?

Appearances are deceiving with the Spotify Camp Nou. A drab concrete bowl from the outside gives way to a steep, imposing stadium when you step inside. But while Europe’s biggest ground remains impressive, especially on the biggest occasions, it has faded and degraded. The need for redevelopment has been obvious for a decade as new stadia have been built by some of Barça’s biggest rivals – Real Madrid, for example, are now playing in a redeveloped 81,044-capacity Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid, Spain.

In the background, there have even been some serious issues with the stadium. Barça played 21 games there in 2019 and 2020 despite serious structural problems like “risk of fragments falling on supporters in walkways” and called for “immediate action”. Grave hygiene breaches were also uncovered, as one report flagged pigeon nests covered in excrement which were attracting swarms of flies and mites, bird droppings all over the concourses and an accumulation of dirt that had been expanding for years.

Laporta admitted the stadium was in state of decay in 2021 when he was elected for his second stint as President and that the club needed to take immediate action to pass security checks despite the looming revamp.

What Plans do Barça have for Camp Nou?

Plans to renovate the ground were first approved by the Barça members in 2014, but due to myriad issues – financial problems, the COVID-19 pandemic, a change in President – the project, which includes the redevelopment of the area around the stadium, is only just getting started. Over 20 different lenders are helping fund the €1.5 billion project, which will see the capacity expand to 105,000.

Barça said in April, “The club will start to repay the operation once work has been completed on the stadium, using income generated by Spotify Camp Nou, which is forecast to be around €247 million per year.”

The bottom tiers of the stadium, which Barça claim will be “at the avant-garde of technology”, will be revamped rather than replaced, but the plan is for a new third tier to be put in to increase the amount of VIP seating and, therefore, revenue. The naming rights deal with Spotify, already in place, will also increase in value progressively.

The new stadium will boast a roof covered in 30,000 square meters of solar panels – no more getting wet when it rains. This energy will be used to power the new 360-degree screen that will run around the entire interior of the stadium, as well as the various security systems. In another effort to improve the ground’s sustainability, the rainwater will also be collected and recycled.

Outside, the concourse will feature a raft of new office complexes and green spaces, as well as an onsite hotel, event spaces, an ice rink, and the ‘Palau Blaugrana’ – a smaller pavilion arena that is primarily the home of the club’s basketball team.

Where will Barça Go?

In the meantime, the Barça will be reluctant tenants at the Olympic Stadium in the Montjuïc area of the City, where rivals LaLiga team RCD Espanyol de Barcelona played between 1997 and 2009. The move, Barça estimate, will cost them around €90m in revenue annually, in part due to the massively reduced capacity of only 50,000 – almost half the number of spectators that the Spotify Camp Nou can hold.

The 55,926-capacity Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys is a stadium in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. Originally built in 1927 for the 1929 International Exposition in the City, it was renovated in 1989 to be the main stadium for the 1992 Summer Olympics and the 1992 Summer Paralympics.

Other qualms include the location of the arena, which was built in 1927 and renovated in 1989 to be used for the Olympic Games in 1992. It sits at the top of a hill in the middle of the City and is difficult to reach by public transport. Many season-ticket holders will take up an option offered by the club to sit the season out, returning to Spotify Camp Nou when the work is finished.

Barça Coach Xavi has expressed concerns about having to relocate, saying they will need supporters more than ever to help them avoid losing that feeling of home advantage – “It won’t be easy.”

Xavi’s side lost only one league match at home this season – a 2-1 loss to their peer team Real Sociedad on May 20th, the week after they had been confirmed as champions of LaLiga for the first time since 2019. If Barça are to retain the title, they will need to find a way to make Montjuïc as much of a fortress as their beloved Spotify Camp Nou.

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