Camp Nou, home of Spanish LaLiga football club Barcelona, will host its first rugby league match next year when it stages a Super League fixture between Catalans Dragons and Wigan Warriors.
The game will take place on May 18, 10 years after the Dragons played Warrington Wolves at Montjuic Olympic Stadium in the Spanish city.
The fixture is a meeting between the Dragons, who won the 2018 Challenge Cup, and Wigan, reigning Super League champions. The agreement comes after Barcelona extended an invitation to the French club following their Challenge Cup triumph.
The Dragons are based in the French prefecture of Perpignan and play their Super League games at the 13,000-capacity Stade Gilbert Brutus. Bernard Guasch, Catalans Dragons chairman, said: “It’s an honour to play at the FC Barcelona stadium and I think we do not realise yet the impact of this event for our club, our competition and our sport.
“I hope this game is the beginning of a great story between our two clubs. It will be an historic day for the Dragons and, few months after having won the Challenge Cup at Wembley, we’ll play two consecutive games at the Camp Nou and then at Anfield. It’s a great period for our club but also for French rugby league.”
For Barcelona, it will be a case of switching codes after the Camp Nou hosted the 2016 Top 14 final. The showpiece game of the top-tier of French club rugby union drew a crowd of 99,124, a record for a club rugby game, as Racing 92 defeated Toulon 29-21.
Josep Maria Bartomeu, FC Barcelona president, said: “I encourage the Dragons supporters to treat our stadium like their home and for Wigan and Barça fans to also share the experience of seeing rugby league played at the Camp Nou. Two seasons ago, our stadium hosted the final of French rugby union’s Top 14 between Toulon and Racing 92 and it was watched by 99,000 people. It was an amazing atmosphere that we hope to see repeated on May 18.”
Ian Lenagan, Wigan Warriors chairman, added: “This is landmark moment in Super League’s history, and we are extremely proud to play our part in making history. I applaud Bernard Guasch and the Catalans Dragons for their ambition and innovative approach to growing the game and the profile of the Betfred Super League. In the Dragons, we have an organisation who share Wigan Warriors approach to driving the growth of rugby league on the international stage.
“It’s a fantastic concept that will capture the imagination of sports fans across the continent of Europe, and I believe it will provide a shot in the arm for the new-era of Super League by underlining the competition’s ambition.”
Image: Catalans Dragons