FC Barcelona’s New Nou Camp

” Excuse me sir, in the dictionary under redundant, it says ‘see redundant’ ” – Robin Williams

The title “new Camp Nou” (Camp Nou is New field in Catalan) is a bilingual lesson in redundancy that thankfully FC Barcelona did not need to learn.  Instead, the Catalan giants have chosen to dub the project the ‘Future Camp Nou’.  The project, announced just over a week ago, puts in motion a plan to redevelop Barcelona’s iconic stadium that goes as far back as 2007.

As it stands, the current Camp Nou boasts the largest capacity in Europe at 99,354 and it has seen the likes of Johan Cruyff, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Pep Guardiola and Messi all grace the grass as players representing Catalunya’s crown jewel that is so clearly much more than a club.

In its current state, the proposal that the club’s board of directors will put to a referendum in April is a lot more than a renovation.  The plan is to use the foundation and framework of the current Camp Nou but to essentially create a new stadium where the stadium currently stands in Les Corts.  The proposal also includes a new Palau Blaugrana, their basketball venue, with seating for 12,000,  a smaller venue with a 3,000 capacity as well as development on the land called the ‘Espai Barca’ where the plans are to build a hotel, a new Barca museum, club offices and a number of other smaller projects.

The cost for this massive endeavor  is estimated at around €600 million and according to The Guardian, work would start in 2017 and continue through to 2021.  Of the €600 million cost, €420 million would go to the stadium construction, €90 million would go toward the new Palau Blaugrana while the final €90 million would go to the Espai Barca developments, parking and the other smaller projects.

As far as financing this project goes, club board member Javier Faus explains that there are four possible sources of funding.  While the club will not allow any renaming of the stadium, there is the possibility of title rights for a 20-25 year period which would expect to bring in €150 million.  Another €50 million could potentially come from the hotel and other commercial space developed from the project.

The majority of the money though would come from the club.  The reduction of the club’s massive debt recently would allow the club to request a €200 million line of bank credit with the final €200 million coming from what is described as “internal financing”.  Barcelona rejected the idea of having large contributions from members or outside organizations and explained that the overall financing of the project would be over 8 years form 2016-2024.

The club looks to continue the debt reduction at the rate they have been doing and expect that the renovations to VIP sections, the increase in capacity and structural developments will bring in an additional €30 million a year through hospitality, ticketing and advertising once the overall project is completed

The decision to propose a stadium remodeling as opposed to a complete new construction at a different location was one made after an 18 month investigation process that included an 18 member panel and €1 million.  In a bid to consider as many options as possible the panel actually threw out four other options in favor of the current renovation/development proposal.

Jordi Moix, a club board member, explained that they looked into recent examples of stadium development including FC Bayern’s Allianz Arena project, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and Athletic Bilbao’s new San Mames stadium in the Basque region of Spain.  All three are examples of amazing stadium projects that were on budget, on time and resulted in amazing and unique atmosphere’s for fan experiences.

The New San Mames Project - Photo Courtesy of www.thefootballstadiums.com

The New San Mames Project – Photo Courtesy of www.thefootballstadiums.com

The first of the initial three options that they dismissed was to break down the current Camp Nou in sections which was decided would be to complex and tedious.

The second was to build a new structure where the club’s miniestadi stands and was dismissed due to a lack of space.

The third option was to attempt something similar to what Atheltic Bilbao did with their new San Mames stadium.  Bilbao built their new stadium directly adjacent to the old one and incorporated one side of the old stadium into the new one.  In the end, this would actually reduce capacity so it was also dismissed.

This left the consideration between building a completely new structure on land located on the city’s Avenida Diagonal which belongs to the University of Barcelona and the current proposal.  The deciding factor which lead to favoring the current proposal was financing.  According to the club the Diagonal project would cost over €1 billion.

Fundamentally the club didn’t want to “mortgage a whole generation of Barça fans to pay for this project” and also did not want any project to put a strain on or influence the on field performance of the team.

As noble a thought as this may be, the €200 million in “internal financing” seems likely to include some form of player sales which might mean selling some of their finest La Masia academy prospects and even some first team players.  Any Arsenal fan will tell you that it is very difficult to not have a project of this size not affect the team performance or development in some way.

We shall see in April once this proposal is put to vote to all of Barcelona’s Socios to see what they think.

Reporting on the business side of the world's game.