COVID-19: Barca’s Dream of £615m Plans to Revamp Camp Nou in Tatters

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Barcelona-Camp-Nou

Barcelona are likely to scale-down their planned £615million revamp of the Camp Nou as part of major economic belt-tightening post coronavirus crisis.

‘Espai Barça’ was originally meant to be completed next year but, as things stand, it looks unlikely to even properly start.

The club might even have to go back to plans first drawn up 13 years ago for a stadium-only renovation at around a third of the cost.

UK’s Sportsmail looks at Barcelona’s continually frustrated attempts to construct a new Camp Nou.

When Barcelona President Josep Bartomeu steps down, either at the end of this season or, more likely, at the end of next, he will do so without having seen the first brick laid on the long awaited redevelopment of the Camp Nou.

He will not be the first club president in that position.

In 2007 Joan Laporta was in the hot-seat and he unveiled his model of the new stadium designed by British architect Norman Foster and inspired by Antoni Gaudi.

The 240m euros (£215m today) project was meant to begin in 2009 but when Laporta stepped down in 2010 work had not begun and the new board decided the plan was not for them.

Thirteen years later with Laporta’s successor Sandro Rosell also gone, Bartomeu finds himself in charge of bringing the club up to date.

But his 700m euros Espai Barça project needed the reaffirmation of the club’s members this month, and when the planned referendum was cancelled because of the coronavirus the brakes slammed back on a project that seems doomed never to be completed.

The remodelling of the famous old ground – Barcelona’s home since 1957 – has always seemed to many to be too expensive and simply not the priority.

Laporta was, in part, sidetracked by the fading fortunes of the team on the pitch. He concentrated his resources on rebuilding the team on the pitch.

The financial crisis hit hard in 2008 and when Rosell eventually replaced Laporta he, along with his board on which Bartomeu sat, decided that simply rebuilding a new Camp Nou was a missed opportunity.

‘Espai Barça’ (Barça Space) was an altogether grander scheme conceived to incorporate not just a new stadium but plans to revamp the surrounding areas inviting in new commercial partners and building a new indoor sports arena for the club’s other sports teams. The first cost estimate came in at 600m euros.

The idea was that 200m euros would be paid for by a naming-rights sponsor; a further 200m euros would be paid for by the club taking out a loan; and the third 200m euros from those future commercial partners.

Over 70 per cent of supporters backed the plan in 2014 in a referendum called by Bartomeu who by this time had replaced Rosell as president. Work was now due to start in 2017.

When Sportsmail interviewed Bartomeu in 2019, from his offices next to the stadium he looked proudly across Aristides Maillol street at work beginning on knocking down the old Miniestadi.

That demolition was completed and last year the club unveiled the impressive new B-team 6,000 capacity Johan Cruyff Estadi at its out of town Joan Gamper training complex.

But back at the home of the first team there is no sign of progress beyond the site where the old Miniestadi once stood.

This month’s referendum was designed to give members the chance to rethink their backing for a proposal that will no longer cost 600m.

The expected price is now at 700m and rising, Diario Sport quoted 800m at the weekend. And, as of yet, there is still no confirmed naming rights partner to provide 200m euros of that money.

As football blinks into a post-coronavirus world, whenever that might be; Barcelona could find themselves in any number of financial scenarios.

They might have the television rights money safely in the bank having reset the fixtures-calendar enabling them to finish the season.

If that’s the case their biggest problems will be recouping lost revenue from ticket sales, stadium visits and club merchandising, particularly if the season restarts without spectators.

But if the season cannot be restarted at all, there could be an even bigger hole in the finances.

Either way, they are not going to meet their projected income for this season, set at just over a billion euros last September.

Things have changed and the redevelopment of one of the most emblematic football stadiums in the world cannot go ahead without a major rethink … and quite possibly, a sizeable reduction in budget.

From 2007 to 2020 the wait for a new Camp Nou goes on. The original plan from 13 years ago to first concentrate on rebuilding just the arena where the first team plays football might have to be put back on the table.