In 2007 Barcelona had the world in awe both on and off the pitch. The club was determined to capitalise economically on their playing success and one of the ideas that was floated was the expansion of the Camp Nou, with it soon announced that English architect Norman Foster had been chosen to reform the historic ground.
The project put together then, with an estimated budget of €250m, would have seen the capacity rise to 106,000 and a roof placed over the stands. To fund this the club announced that they would sell the Mini Estadi. If everything went according to plan the project would start in 2009 and be completed for the 2011-12 season.
The recession that soon hit afterwards saw the idea shelved and when Sandro Rosell took the presidential reigns from Joan Laporta, he put a major stumbling block in the way of the project, saying that the he wouldn’t be selling the Mini Estadi, labelling it one of the club’s ‘crown jewels’. While his supporters claim that he was preserving Barca’s history, many felt that it was just his attempt to block a concrete and fixed reminder of the Laporta legacy.
The club, meanwhile, has done some minor work since 2010, which has brought the total capacity to just fewer than 100,000. Whilst on the pitch Barca have dominated Real Madrid, off the pitch they have lagged behind and are constantly playing catch up. When Florentino Perez came in at Los Blancos he set about developing the Santiago Bernabeu into one of Madrid’s major tourist attractions. It has since caused the club’s coffers explode. Barca are finally looking at closing the gap and in January face a huge decision on how to take the club forward.
Already holding the biggest capacity in Europe, there are two plans on the table to be discussed in the new year at a board meeting. One is the expansion of the ground that would see capacity rising to 105,000 at a cost of more than €300m. The Barca board are determined to reach the magic number of 105,000 and so the other idea is the possibility of building a new ground which would cost upwards of €600m. Whilst Barca have been bringing down their debt, it still stands at over €300m and reports that these initial figures, first quoted in 2010, could now stand at close to double, presents a potential issue.
However, determination appears to be there, with the board’s spokesperson, Toni Freixa, giving some idea of where the new ground could be built.
“The construction of a new stadium on the land on Diagonal, property which belongs to the University of Barcelona, or a profound remodelling project that would constitute a new stadium keeping the current structure of the Camp Nou,” said Freixa. But with property prices in the Catalan city dropping according to analysis, this may be a non starter not just economically but also from a fan perspective.
From now to January there will be plenty of speculation on what will happen. In the first polls that have been conducted since the announcement, over 80 per cent of fans have voted in favour of staying in the Camp Nou. Rosell pulled the plug on Laporta’s idea – will someone do the same to him?