By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Barcelona must press on with plans to renovate Camp Nou in order to replenish revenues lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic, vice-president Jordi Moix told Reuters, adding that the 815-million-euro ($957 million) project will pay for itself.
The club announced a financing deal with Goldman Sachs on Monday to modernise their iconic but run down stadium and raise its capacity from 99,000 to 105,000.
Should the plan be approved by club members next year, building work can begin by June 2021 and will take around five years to complete.
The announcement came on the same day Barca released a grim set of financial figures, showing a loss of 97 million euros, while its net debt had more than doubled to 488 million euros.
Revenues were also down 19% from the previous year, by 135 million euros, as fans have been unable to attend matches due to coronavirus safety measures.
The club has also been harmed by the huge drop in tourism to the city due to the pandemic, affecting income from its museum, which usually receives 1.2 million visitors per year, and from merchandising.
According to Moix, the renovation of the stadium and surrounding area, known as Espai Barca, has been made more urgent by the pandemic.
“Espai Barca is needed more than ever because of COVID,” Moix told Reuters in a video interview.
“It’s a way to re-engine the economy of the city and the club and generate new revenues, but we have to put that investment in.”
The financing deal with Goldman Sachs ensures that the cost of the stadium will not interfere with the daily running of the club or affect its ability to attract and keep the best players