Barcelona will miss out on the Camp Nou advantage this season as Europe’s largest football stadium gets overhauled
BARCELONA: Beyond courting and developing some of the world’s best talent, Barcelona also based its success on a strong home advantage thanks to Europe’s largest football stadium.
That will be different this season, when the team plays in a smaller, less accessible stadium, while the 99,000-seat Camp Nou undergoes a full makeover that won’t last for at least three years.
Far from Camp Nou, Barcelona will spend time at the 49,000-seat Lluis Company Olympic Stadium. This would certainly mean a quieter, less intimidating atmosphere for the opponents and less revenue for a club struggling with serious financial problems.
Around 35,000 people made their debut for Barcelona against Tottenham at their temporary home on Tuesday in a friendly match the club used to promote their team for the upcoming campaign. That compares to the 83,000 people who showed up for an equivalent match at Camp Nou a year ago.
Coach Xavi Hernandez took the microphone to address the crowd watching his team beat Tottenham 4-2. He asked them to stay there.
“We have the same motivation as last season. But this season will not be easy. It will be an unusual season. We won’t be at home,” Xavi told the stadium. “We will need you more than ever, we will need your support, your solidarity, your sacrifice. It is important that you make us feel like we are at the Camp Nou.”
While Barcelona has proven edible at home in recent years, there was a time not so long ago when they were nearly invincible at the Camp Nou. At the best of Lionel Messi and his team, Barcelona did not lose a Champions League home game in more than seven years between September 2013 and December 2020. in front of his fans.
Only 17,000 club members purchased season tickets for this campaign, which was far from the 27,000 that club president Joan Laporta had hoped for. The rest of the seats will be sold on a per game basis. Last season, the club sold 83,000 season tickets to club members, achieving an average attendance of about the same. The highest attendance in a single match last season was 95,000 which saw Barcelona beat Real Madrid 2-1 in a match that kept the team on track to win the Spanish league title.
Barcelona opens the Spanish League season away at Getafe on Sunday. He will then play his first home match against Cadiz on 20 August.
The stadium, which took part in the 1992 Summer Olympics, is not without its attractions. It is located on the hill of Montjuic, which offers a magnificent view of the city, and there are other attractions especially for tourists, such as parks, the Olympic museum and the art museum. Barcelona’s inter-city rival, Espanyol, played in this stadium while building the new stadium of the Olympic Stadium between 1997-2009.
But many local fans find it more difficult to get to the Olympic Stadium than at Camp Nou, which is within walking distance of the nearby metro stations.
Even Laporta had to admit that “going to Montjuic was inconvenient but didn’t seem like a big deal to me”.
There will be shuttle buses to help ticket holders reach the stadium to help fans avoid going up the hill.
The club also upgraded the facilities of the Olympic Stadium, including covering the track and re-creating the locker rooms.
Perhaps more importantly for Barcelona in the medium term, the time off from Camp Nou will spell a financial blow for a club struggling to reduce a massive debt of nearly 1.3 billion euros ($1.4 billion). This figure does not include loan commitments the club has undertaken to remodel its stadium.
The club said the cost of renting the municipal stadium will be between 15-20m euros ($16.5-22m) for the season. In April, Laporta said playing away from the Camp Nou would leave a gap of about 93 million euros ($102 million) in the club’s accounts between rent paid and lower incomes. Laporta said the club is trying to monetize its recent league title and the women’s Champions League success to find new sponsors to close the gap. The women’s team will still play at its much smaller stadium outside the city.
Barcelona’s plans to overhaul the Camp Nou have been delayed for years, as health restrictions have already banned the public from attending matches, unlike rival Real Madrid, which is trying to take advantage of the pandemic to renovate the Santiago Bernabeu. They finally hit the road this summer with the teams starting to tear down parts of it.
Barcelona hopes to return to play at the Camp Nou in November 2024. The new-looking stadium will seat 105,000 and have better sales services to further increase matchday revenues. However, work on the stadium is expected to continue until 2026, meaning spectators will dwindle by then. The entire project required Barcelona to receive support of €1.45 billion ($1.6 billion) from multiple investors.
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