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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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.

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada