Nou Camp stadium expansion: Barcelona beat Manchester City on and off the field

They are on the verge of expanding Nou Camp beyond 100,000 and leaving their rivals even further behind

The really bad news for Manchester City is that Barcelona – the club they aspire to be – are 23 days away from launching into the project that will make them even bigger. Vastly bigger. Plans to transform the Nou Camp into Europe's first stadium of over 100,000 capacity – and a glittering one at that – will be put to a referendum of the club's 100,000 socios (members) on 5 April and the project reveals in myriad ways that the footballing gulf between the two clubs that was exposed on Wednesday night is a commercial one, too.

While the stamp of their Abu Dhabi backers is understandably written all over City's own stadium development, which will see the Etihad Campus sit alongside the Etihad Stadium from July next year, Barcelona will not sell full naming rights but only a subtler, less lucrative brand association they call the stadium "surname" at their expanded 'Nou Camp Nou.'

Neither would they allow Qatar Airways to buy those rights, at a cost Barça expect to be €200m (£167m) over 20 years, because they believe that to have one entity sponsoring both stadium and shirt – as City do – would create the impression that the club are "owned" by the Middle East. "We don't want it to be perceived that anyone is so powerful within the club, because this comes to the root of what Barça is. Barça is not owned by anybody," the club's vice-president Javier Faus told The Independent.

And while City's imaginative game of catch-up with the commercial powerhouses of world football has included creating mini versions of the club in New York and Melbourne, Faus says his club will not countenance such an idea. "No," he said to the idea of imitating City's global plan. "We think there is only one FC Barcelona and it is here. We are very, very proud to be here and we want to stick to our home base."

City's quest to discover some of what the Catalan club has got saw them hire two of its prime and impressive architects, chief executive Ferran Soriano and sporting director Txiki Begiristain, in 2012 but the greater scale of Barcelona is written all over the expansion plans. While City are expanding the Etihad to 62,000, Barça's 10,000 extra seats will take it to 105,000 – a necessary increase because season-ticket demand leaves even 8,000 of the socios on the waiting list. That those season tickets costs a modest €1,000 – half the €2,000 Real Madrid charge – is in part because of the club's obsession with an image of "social commitment in an obvious and far-reaching way for the 21st century" as Soriano described his philosophy as Barcelona vice-president.

The brand strategy has worked, severely dented though it was last year, by the decision to allow Qatar Airways to replace Unicef on the iconic shirts as Barça progressed towards halving its 2010 debts inside four years. The Nou Camp's Nike store is the biggest in the world, sustaining the club's belief that they can more than double the €30m-a-year (£25m) kit deal which runs to 2018, at a time when City command around £72m over six years from the same company and United are negotiating around £65m a year.

The commercial weak point of Nou Camp is its corporate hospitality – so underdeveloped amid the need to pack in the socios and foster the co-operative spirit that Barcelona take only £10m a year from it, while Real Madrid rake in £37m, Arsenal £33m, Manchester United £31.2 and Bayern Munich £20.8m. City's hugely innovative commercial operation saw them to the fastest-growing revenues in the 2013 Deloitte Money League but they are still a distance behind in this field, too. City do not state hospitality income but their overall matchday revenues are £39m a year.

The "Camp Nou redo," as Faus describes it, will put that hospitality issue right and also reshape the now antiquated, 60-year-old stadium. The work will cost €420m – part of an overall €600m site development which, despite the fragility of the Spanish economy, will be secured in syndicate loans, Faus insisted. Investment bankers from London to New York want a piece of the action, he insisted. "The banks are eager to lend to solvent clients and there are not many Spanish corporations like that. A bank is a bank. If it does not keep lending it will close its doors."

The uncertainties lie in the money Barcelona will continue to command in TV rights. The club are arguing for wider distribution of money, to allow "more Atletico Madrids" to grow up, as Faus put it, though Barcelona insist that their own take must remain the same, so the smaller clubs' rise must come from a bigger TV deal overall. That seems contingent on another broadcaster – perhaps Al Jazeera or BSkyB – coming into the field. There's no certainty that they will.

Even less predictable, of course, is the game of football – and whether Barcelona's La Masia Academy can keep producing the talent we witnessed in Lionel Messi on Wednesday night. Faus said that Gerard Deulofeu, on loan at Everton, and Rafinha, on loan at Celta Vigo, would be first-team superstars in the next two years. "We don't need to spend €150m a year [on players] because of La Masia," he insisted, though the on-field inconsistency which had created a firestorm before Wednesday's match revealed how nothing is immutable in this sport. "We are completely sure we will maintain our success because we have Leo Messi and we have Neymar," Faus said. "We need to win everything. City lost against a 'B' team [Wigan] and there was no crisis. Here it would be an earthquake."

Yaya Touré spoke more presciently than he realised when he said of his team's defeat that Barcelona had "more experience at this level than us". City, a good side with some great players, are still forming their philosophy and global reach. Barcelona, a great side with many great players, have been honing theirs for a decade. "You have to understand we are not a machine," Touré reflected. But that is precisely what Wednesday night's Barcelona team were – a machine which is about to get bigger.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Environment
Pigeons have been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system
environmentCan species be 'de-extincted'?
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
A Pilgrim’s Progress is described by its publisher as “the one-and-only definitive record” of David Hockney's life and works
people
Sport
Loic Remy signs for Chelsea
footballBlues wrap up deal on the eve of the transfer window
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker
TV
Life and Style
Instagram daredevils get thousands of followers
techMeet the daredevil photographers redefining urban exploration with death-defying stunts
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'
TVDaughter says contestant was manipulated 'to boost ratings'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor