Barca stadium facelift further delayed due to coronavirus - director

·2-min read
La Liga Santander - FC Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao

BARCELONA (Reuters) - The completion date for renovations to Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium has been pushed even further back to 2025, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the club's financial director Jordi Moix has said.

Plans to increase the ground's capacity from 99,000 to 105,000 and install a roof were approved by members in 2014, with work set to begin in 2017 and be completed by 2021, at a cost of 600 million euros (455.86 million pounds).

Yet Moix said political changes in the city and the instability created by the region's push for independence had caused the delay, which was then exacerbated by the pandemic.

"If we approve the financing for this season and start building work next summer at full speed we are talking about four years of works and we are talking about inaugurating the stadium in 2025," Moix told newspaper La Vanguardia on Thursday.

"If everything goes to plan I see it happening by that date. It's been heavily delayed, of course. I wish we could have started two or three years ago.

"There are two elements we couldn't control, a change in the local government and then trying to agree everything in a politically exceptional time. And then you add the coronavirus to all that, which has delayed almost everything."

Moix added that Barca had lost around 20% of revenue to the pandemic, which has obliterated matchday income and commercial revenue due to the paralysing effect the virus has had on tourism.

Yet he said the club still urgently needed to push forward with the renovations to their colossal yet ageing stadium to keep up with other top European clubs who are renovating their grounds and increasing revenues as a result.

"It is more necessary than ever. We have to revitalise the stadium whatever it takes. Our rivals in Europe are doing it or have already done it," Moix said.

"We have to do it because the potential for income is much higher with a reformed stadium, with greater income from boxes or the naming rights. It's an essential project."

Barca's arch rivals Real Madrid have accelerated renovation works on their Santiago Bernabeu stadium while Atletico Madrid moved in to the Wanda Metropolitano in 2017.

Premier League champions Liverpool meanwhile are continuing to expand Anfield and Tottenham Hotspur opened a shiny new ground last year at a cost of one billion pounds ($1.32 billion).

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis)