The 2021/22 season has proven to be one to forget for Barcelona fans. First there was the departure of the iconic Lionel Messi, a sale forced by the financial crisis at the club. Then there was the disastrous management spell of Ronald Koeman and a slow start to the season that saw the Catalan giants outside the top four for more than half of their campaign.
And now it seems that Barca fans are in for more unsettling change in the medium term with the news that the club will be moving out of the legendary Camp Nou, at least for one season, in 2023/24 to allow redevelopment to take place.
Respectability in terms of league position was restored to a degree following the appointment of club legend Xavi to the manager’s job, along with some judicious January signings. By the time that Real Madrid finally clinched the league title, Barcelona had risen to second and in a strong position to finish in the top four and guarantee Champions League football next season.
This serves to underline the fundamental law of football gravity in Spain: that no matter how badly the big two perform in the short term, in the long term, their resources and ability to attract the world’s best will always shine through.
In fact, betting fans checking out the prices for next season’s Spanish top flight at the Grosvenor sports app will find Barcelona once again at the top of the market alongside Real Madrid, something that should come as a surprise to no-one.
Still, adjusting to a season away from Camp Nou will be difficult, at least initially. The club have been granted a permit from the Barcelona City Council to carry out renovations on the stadium, with work due to start as early as June and while they will be able to carry on staging games during the 2022/23 season, at almost full capacity, they will have to move out completely in the summer of 2023, for a year. They expect to return in 2024/25 though with capacity down to 50%.
The work will eventually be completed during the 2025/26 season, which suggests a building project taking between three and four years. If that sounds excessive, it is important to consider the size of the project and the stadium itself. The plans involve demolishing and rebuilding the entire third tier of Camp Nou, an enormous undertaking at a ground with a current capacity of 99,354, making it the third biggest stadium in the world.
When the work is completed, Camp Nou will be the second biggest football stadium globally, with a capacity of 105,000, overtaking Melbourne’s MCG, which has been used for football as well as cricket. In addition, the renovation is aimed at creating a steeper tiered arrangement with the intention of improving the viewing experience for fans.
While the most disruptive work is being carried out, during the 2023/24 season, Barcelona will instead play their home games at the Olympic Stadium in Montjuic, a venue that hosted the 1992 Olympics and that was formerly the home of city rivals Espanyol.