The Camp Nou at Barcelona is the largest football stadium in Europe, and the second largest in the world, after Rungrado 1st of May Stadium in Pyongyang in North Korea. It has a capacity of 99,354 and is rated at the highest of four stars by UEFA.
It has been renovated thrice since being opened 61 years ago. The first renovation was made in the build-up to the World Cup, where it hosted 5 matches, most notably the semi-final between Italy and Poland. The seating capacity was increased to around 120,000.
Further changes were made in 1995, with the pitched was lowered and the moat was removed to expand the seating area. In 1999, the seating capacity was reduced to the current one. But 9 years later, club president Joan Laporta formulated a plan for further record-breaking expansion.
He hired British architect Normal Foster to remodel the stadium. The Barcelona board also approved the sale of Barça B’s home ground, the Mini Estadi to fund the mammoth €250 million project that would require more than 3 years to complete.
But the supporters failed to throw their weight behind the sale of the Mini Estadi, the literal breeding ground of club legends like Carles Puyol, Xavi and Andrés Iniesta. So, candidate Sandro Rosell used that to remove Laporta from power and assume presidency.
Rosell’s successor and current president Josep Maria Bartomeu raised the issue again in 2014 after his election. Laporta’s earlier proposal of ‘restructuring’ the Camp Nou was rejected due to its expensiveness. But the board did agree to sanction an expansion.
Barça released the comprehensive plan in 2015, with plans to add a canopy over the entire stadium, with the new capacity being 105,000. The construction work has already started, and is expected to continue till 2022.
This decision taken by Bartomeu and his board is one of the worst ever, in the history of the club. It is economically foolish and undermines the identity of the club as a typical Catalan club with rustic roots.
The stadium’s filling rate was 78% on an average when the plans were released. But last season, it dropped to 66%, which is a very low figure for a club of Barça’s stature. In one of the biggest games last season, the Copa del Rey semi-final against Valencia, it was just 50%.