Barcelona suspends Espai Barça financing talks

FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta yesterday (Sunday) chose to adjourn a meeting to discuss the financing of the LaLiga club’s Espai Barça project, with the board to reconvene on the matter on Friday.

Laporta opted to suspend the session at the request of several board members, with the move set to ensure maximum attendance at the second meeting on Friday.

A number of board members requested more time to discuss the matter. It came after the first items on the agenda, such as the president’s report, the settlement of the 2020-21 accounts and the budget for the 2021-22 financial year, took up more time than expected.

The Espai Barça project includes an expansion of the capacity of the Camp Nou to 110,000, as well as construction of the new Palau Blaugrana arena and a Barça Campus that will serve as a sports and entertainment hub with a hotel, offices and other buildings.

Barcelona completed the first part of the Espai Barça project with the opening of Estadi Johan Cruyff in August 2019. The stadium serves as the home of the Barça B and women’s teams, as well as the U19 side when it plays in European competitions.

Earlier this month, Laporta revealed that Barcelona would be forced to play away from the Camp Nou while renovation work is carried out at the stadium, with the Estadi Johan Cruyff being lined up as a potential part-time home.

Laporta hopes that work on the Camp Nou expansion can begin in the summer of 2022, with the project expected to take three to four years. Laporta also revealed that Barcelona was looking to request €1.5bn (£1.3bn/$1.7bn) of credit to fund Espai Barça.

Barcelona has been in talks with US financial services giant Goldman Sachs over a potential funding agreement for the project. Any announcement on the funding will now not be made until Friday at the earliest.

Discussing the importance of Espai Barça, Barcelona vice-president Elena Fort said: “In Europe, there are 67 stadiums with more than 40,000 seats that are more modern than the Camp Nou. Of these, 58 have been modernised since 2003 and, in this same period, seven of the nine clubs in the Spanish league with stadiums of more 40,000 seats have already modernised them or are doing so. Only Valencia and ourselves are left.”

Comparing the cost of Espai Barça to similar-sized projects, Fort added: “Wembley, for example, cost €900m in 2001 and, extrapolating a stadium that would have had 105,000 seats, would have cost €1.1bn. The Santiago Bernabeu, a stadium for 81,000 people, has a cost of almost €900m.”

The latest iteration of the Espai Barça project will see the first tier of the Camp Nou maintained, with a completely new third tier to be built. This would mean that season ticket holders would not need to be moved during the construction phase.

During yesterday’s meeting, Barcelona general manager Ferran Reverter confirmed that the project would not cost season ticket holders any money, with the financing plan based on additional revenue that will be generated through new boxes, VIP seats, operating spaces and sponsors.

The €1.5bn budget will attribute €900m for the Camp Nou, €420m for the Palau Blaugrana, €100m for the Barça Campus, €60m for investments agreed to in the Modification of the General Metropolitan Plan, and €20m for possible improvements to the Estadi Johan Cruyff.

Yesterday’s meeting was postponed so that board members could head to the Camp Nou to watch Barcelona’s match against Valencia. Barcelona won the match 3-1.

Image: Anna Sullivan on Unsplash