Barca, Madrid Set to Shutdown Stadiums to Fight COVID-19

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FC Barcelonaand Real Madrid FC are considering closing their respective mega stadiums and opt for mini grounds to complete the rest of the season’s matches and possibly early part of next season.

Reports in Spain yesterday indicate that the Catalan side could shut the Nou Camp to spectators for a further 10 months and not open its gates again until February 2021, according to an internal report drawn up by the club.

The revelation has been made by Catalan paper La Vanguardia, who have seen documents outlining two possible scenarios for the development of the financial crisis engulfing football because of the coronavirus shutdown.

In the more pessimistic of the two, the current season does not get completed; the transfer window is put back until August 15 and then shuts on September 15 when the 2020-21 season begins.

This is the doomsday scenario that LaLiga President Javier Tebas says will cost Spanish football €1billion (£882million).

Most alarmingly for Barcelona, in this first possible future, the Nou Camp remains shut to the public until February of 2021.

The internal club report also outlines a more optimistic second scenario, with the season restarting on June 15 and finishing in the second week of August.

But even in the second scenario, with football returning earlier and the season being completed, Barcelona are still not planning for fans being back in the Nou Camp before November 15, according to the La Vanguardia report.

The coronavirus outbreak has hit Spain particularly badly, with almost 200,000 confirmed cases and over 20,000 deaths recorded so far.

It has also contributed to turmoil at the LaLiga giants, with Lionel Messi and his team-mates being forced into a 70 per cent pay cut and some non-playing staff being put on the Spanish government’s equivalent of furlough.

Last week the club announced the restructuring of their board after the resignations of six directors plunged them into crisis.

The Catalan giants were thrown into off-field disarray following the mass exodus, which was confirmed in a strongly-worded statement.

Club President Josep Bartomeu has been forced to reshuffle the figures at boardroom level while battling against claims from those wanting to replace him in the top job.

Presidential candidate Victor Font recently claimed the LaLiga giants are heading towards ‘economic bankruptcy and moral decay’ due to their handling of the coronavirus crisis, their attempts to re-sign Neymar from PSG and accusations that the club paid money to a social media company to plant negative stories about club figures at odds with the board.

As for Real Madrid, they are weighing up playing their remaining home fixtures at the ground of their reserve side Castilla – with a capacity of over 75,000 fewer seats than their iconic Bernabeu.

The LaLiga campaign will only resume behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic, leading Real to explore the possibility of staging home games at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium – a modest 6,000 seat venue on the outskirts of the Spanish capital.

The move will allow refurbishment to the Bernabeu to take place more quickly – with Clasico rivals Barcelona having to abandon their plans to revamp the Nou Camp.