Camp Nou Stadium makeover not before 2025


Camp Nou update Aug 2020 Image: FC Barcelona

Jordi Moix, Commissioner of the Espai Barça project in Spain, has revealed that the expanded Camp Nou Stadium is not expected to open before 2025, with the disastrous COVID-19 pandemic to attribute partially for the delay.

The Espai Barça project is a large-scale infrastructure redevelopment project to improve (and expand) all of Spanish professional football club FC Barcelona’s infrastructure including their training facilities, Camp Nou Stadium, Palau Blaugrana, the club’s offices as well as the commercial and leisure facilities.

William T. Mannarelli, Director, Espai Barça, FC Barcelona, Spain, is a Member of Coliseum Strategic Committee.

Palau Blaugrana is an arena in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, belonging to FC Barcelona. The 7,585 seating capacity arena is home to the basketball, handball, roller hockey, and futsal divisions of FC Barcelona.

Camp Nou is a football stadium in Barcelona, Spain. It opened in 1957 and has been the home stadium of FC Barcelona since its completion. With a seating capacity of 99,354, it is the largest stadium in Spain and Europe, and the fourth largest football stadium in the world in capacity.

Moix, who also serves as Barcelona’s Financial Director, told mediapersons that the Espai Barça project is “more necessary than ever” as the La Liga club seeks to stay competitive among Europe’s top teams.

He said that if everything had gone as per plan, the fully overhauled 105,000-seater would have been ready by now. And right now the scenario is that work hasn’t even started.

Espai Barça is an all-comprehensive development plan that will lead to the capacity of the Camp Nou rise from around 99,000 to over 105,000, with a new roof also to be fitted at the historic facility. The project will also see the Palau Blaugrana arena be replaced by a new facility.

In August 2019, Barcelona completed the first phase of the project with the opening of Estadi Johan Cruyff, which serves as the home of the Barça B and women’s teams, as well as the U19 side when it plays in European competitions.

The rehabilitation of Camp Nou is pivotal to the project as Moix remarked, “We have to revitalize the stadium. All of our rivals in Europe have done it or are doing it. We have to do it because the income potential is much greater with a renovated stadium, with higher income from boxes or from the name that will be given to the Camp Nou through ‘title rights’. It is an essential project. The sooner we have this income, the sooner we can compete.”

Unfortunately, right from the time of conceiving the project till today major issues have surfaced, which are beyond Barca’s control.

“There are two elements we couldn’t control, a change in the local Government and then trying to agree everything in a politically exceptional time. And then you add the coronavirus to all that, which has delayed almost everything.” Moix lamented.

Only in the latter part of 2019, first enabling works began, with actual construction expected to start after the 2019-20 season. Tearing down the ancillary stairways was necessary to make way for new pillars of the extended auditorium structure. But before workers could enter the site, the COVID-19 curse wrecked the football season and pounded Spain. By April, Barcelona was forced to acknowledge that the reconstruction scheme is being postponed, without a date.

Last month, Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu said that work on the new Palau Blaugrana could be halted as the club plans to revisit the finances of Espai Barça.

The project could consume €685m (£617m/$813m) and Moix said that a completion date of 2025 would be realistic once finances have been finalized.

“If we approve the financing this season that will begin in September and we start the works at full capacity next summer, we will be talking about four years of construction and we would be talking about opening the stadium in 2025,” he added.

“If everything is fulfilled, I will see it on that date. It’s long overdue … I wish we could have started two or three years ago. There were two elements here that we did not control and that are logical. There was a change of Mayor and that led to a process of repeating a part of the work that we had already done. The second factor is that we had to bring the majority of political forces to an agreement in exceptional political times. On top of all this was the coronavirus, which delayed almost everything,” Bartomeu continued.

The whole Camp Nou repurposing work depends on how the 2020-21 season shapes up, whether fans will be allowed into the stadium fold and whether gate revenue would again return. So far, Blaugrana estimate they’ve lost up to 20 percent of their overall revenue. And between 2017 and 2020, the development’s price tag rose from €600 to €800 million.

Though COVID-19 has thrown the gauntlet to FC Barcelona, the outcome should be worth it. While overall capacity of the arena will grow by ‘only’ 6,000 seats (to 105,000+), the commercial and hospitality facilities will expand in size, ensuring extra revenue flow in the long term. Also, naming rights are expected to be sold as well, for the first time in history.

Work is expected to be phased in a way which would enable Barca to stay in their residence during that period. Precisely, this is the reason why it would take four long years to carry out all upgrade work, with most of the heavy work to be carried out between seasons.

Barcelona’s arch-rival Real Madrid is presently carrying out refurbishment work on its Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, with the project set to be completed by October 2022.

Pet project

The Camp Nou project is Moix’s pet project. He is in charge of the development at a time when coronavirus is wreaking havoc worldwide. Nevertheless, he is very enthusiastic and positive about the project.

He pointed out, “The impact of the coronavirus has been significant. It is affecting two essential elements of the day-to-day life of the club. It is affecting the ability to travel due to the restrictions that exist in tourism and therefore has a very direct impact on Barcelona and Barça in terms of non-match days. And a second aspect is that it is impacting mass activities. Since March 14, since there is no activity in the stadium and when there is an almost complete downturn in tourism, it has implied a reduction in income of around 20 percent.”

The top official said that due to COVID-19, players’ salaries had to be adjusted to balance the accounts to the extent possible, “although I anticipate that we will have an accounting closing with losses. It will not be a positive result, as is happening with the economy in general. To limit the impact we are working from three perspectives. The first, to work the income in the field of digital products, with Barça Studios, or the trade of products over the Internet to try to compensate for the tourism deficits that we are having and that affects attendance at the Museum, for example. The second, in terms of expenses, we have established a COVID commission as part of which unnecessary expenses are done away with.”

Moix stated their objective was to resize the club and the income statement during this time of coronavirus upheaval. He said the positive part was that their sponsors “continue to bet on us. As for the liabilities, the indebtedness that we have with the banks, we have sat down with them and we have made a review of the business plan. We have restructured the compliance schedule to buy additional time, as many other entities have done. Despite everything, we remain optimistic.”

Moix said that salary cut of footballers would be the last option for them – “We have to see how we finish the market for the purchase and sale of players and how we are left with the volume of salary mass. We have 33 or 34 players, counting those who are on loan and comeback, and the idea is to move to a squad of fewer players. We have been betting for a long time on our own style of football and on players who are already arriving or who have arrived and who do not imply an investment in terms of transfers.”

He made it clear that amid this coronavirus crisis, it was more necessary than ever to carry forward the Espai Barça project.

Talking about the financing angle of the project, Moix informed, “All major games, such as ticketing, the contract with Nike or the television rights will continue to serve the day-to-day life of the club, they will not be linked to the Espai Barça agreement. It is a financing that must be returned for 30 years. We will not be with a pandemic for 30 years. We do not receive all the money at once. As we certify the different works and projects, the financing will arrive. From September, we can request the new building license.”

Right now, Moix wants to consolidate all his efforts towards seeing his pet project come to fruition.

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