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Espai Barça chief ‘set to depart’

Featured image credit: FC Barcelona

FC Barcelona is facing further upheaval for its Espai Barça facilities development venture, with the project’s executive director, Àlex Barbany, set to depart from his position, according to multiple Spanish media reports.

Barcelona-based newspaper El Periódico, which first reported the news, said Barbany will leave the LaLiga football club on September 30. The decision is said to have been communicated internally by the club, with Barbany reportedly departing at his own request.

Barbany joined Barcelona in March 2021, initially as chief revenue officer, having spent his career in the real estate sector. He was appointed executive director of Espai Barça in April 2022.

Barbany’s impending departure comes after Barcelona confirmed in January that Jordi Llauradó had stepped down from his role as director of Espai Barça. Llauradó asked Barcelona president Joan Laporta for a change in his position to spend more time on his business commitments.

The news came after Barcelona’s contentious decision to appoint Turkish company Limak Construction to carry out the redevelopment of its Spotify Camp Nou stadium. Barcelona vice-president Elena Fort said that Llauradó did not vote on the matter due to “personal ethics and his knowledge of the world of construction”.

Prior to Llauradó, the Espai Barça project had also seen key managerial exits in the shape of Ramon Ramírez and Bill Mannarelli. Mannarelli’s resignation – with full severance package – in May 2021 came after Laporta returned to the club as president in March of that year.

El Periódico said that Barbany’s exit comes with his influence on the project having gradually been reduced. The newspaper added that the execution of the works is now led by Joan Sentelles and Luis Moya. 

Sentelles is in charge of acquisitions and securing suppliers that serve the club. Moya is focused on obtaining municipal permits so that Limak can continue the Camp Nou works. Espai Barça centres on an expansion of the Camp Nou’s capacity from 98,000 to 105,000, and will also include a new Palau Blaugrana arena and the wide-ranging Campus Barça development.

Barcelona last month marked its first LaLiga match at Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys with a 2-0 victory over Cádiz. The match attracted a crowd of 39,603, roughly 80% of the overall 54,367 capacity. Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys is serving as the temporary home of Barcelona while the Camp Nou undergoes major renovation.

Barcelona will be playing at the Estadi Olímpic until November 2024 while the Camp Nou is transformed. Laporta in July revealed that the club is planning on reducing its investment in the Espai Barça project from €1.1bn (£956m/$1.16bn) to €960m.

In May, work officially started in earnest on the revamp of Camp Nou. In April, Barcelona finalised €1.45bn of financing to complete the Espai Barça project, including the remodelling of the Camp Nou. In March, London-based WOO Architects was appointed by Limak Construction to support the redevelopment.