Spanish LaLiga side FC Barcelona’s project to renovate its Camp Nou stadium and surrounding facilities will not be completed before 2025 because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the changing political landscape in the city.
Jordi Moix, economic and assets vice president and head of the ‘Espai Barça’ redevelopment, told local newspaper La Vanguardia that the pandemic, combined with a change of mayor in the city, had delayed the approval process for the project.
The redevelopment was originally slated to begin in June 2017 after Barcelona selected a bid from Nikken Sekkei and Pascual i Ausió Arquitectes to design the redevelopment in March 2016. But the start date has been repeatedly postponed.
Moix said the project was now likely to start in September with full-capacity works beginning next summer. The club predicts the project will take four years to complete, meaning the stadium could now open in 2025.
“I wish we could have started two or three years ago,” Moix told the Spanish publication. “There were two elements here that we did not control and that are logical. There was a change of mayoralty 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. To all this was added the coronavirus, delaying almost everything.”
American bankers Goldman Sachs are willing to extend a 30-year financing agreement to pay for the stadium renovation project. Moix said the club’s existing commercial agreements would continue to finance the running of the club and would not be used to service this debt.
“All the major revenue streams, such as ticketing, the contract with Nike or television rights will continue to serve the day-to-day life of the club, they will not be linked to the Espai Barça agreement,” he said.
“We do not receive all the money at once. As we certify the different works and projects, the financing will arrive.”
Barcelona members will also have to approve the financing proposals in a referendum which Moix predicted could take place in the autumn.
The club has been searching for a stadium naming rights sponsor to carry some of the cost of the redevelopment and Moix appeared to indicate it was discussing the opportunity with existing sponsors.
“It is a subject that is progressing. We are looking to make it a company or companies with a desire for continuity,” he said.
Moix revealed the club has forecast a 20-to-25-per-cent reduction in income as a consequence of the pandemic and the loss of matchday and non-matchday income which is likely to delay the club’s quest to become the first football club to generate €1bn ($1.18bn/£900m) in annual revenues. But even this forecast depends on fans being allowed back into stadiums by December or January next year.
To limit losses during the crisis, Moix said the club was increasingly relying on a new suite of digital products launched earlier in the year.
In a recent interview with SportBusiness, Barcelona head of digital Didac Lee, said he believed lockdown restrictions and a ban on spectators at LaLiga matches had created favourable conditions for the release of the club’s new OTT service, Barça TV+.
The club also recently launched its own official e-commerce channel selling around 7,000 club-branded products. Initially, it will be released in Spain only, but the Catalan club plans to expand this across Europe in the coming months.
The Camp Nou, which first opened in 1957, has a current capacity of 98,888. Through the redevelopment the historic stadium will be expanded to a final capacity of around 105,000. It will continue to consist of three tiers, with the first tier being completely rebuilt to offer greatly enhanced views, the second tier granted cosmetic upgrades and the top tier being extended to encompass the west side of the stadium. All seats will also be covered, with a roof only existing on one side of the stadium at present.
The club has at least managed to complete part of the project, upgrading the 6,000-seat Estadi Johan Cruyff, which hosts reserve, youth team and women’s matches.