Agusti Benedito told delegates to the Stadia & Arena conference in Istanbul that his candidacy for President of the Barcelona club was intimately bound up with venue development. It is not a straightforward contest between spending and not spending money. Talking about the basketball, handball and volleyball, he said:
Barca obviously deserves an arena similar to an O2 London. There is no excuse not to have a new arena. The current board of directors has pledged this. If I become President, Palau Blaugrana arena will take centre stage.
Benedito believes any decision made about the Camp Nou stadium is illegitimate unless the 170,000 socis (owners/club members) cast their vote. Which makes the next presidential election the right time to get a mandate for a properly researched and costed development plan. So that the stadium debate and vote can take place soon, Benedito says that the club’s regulations allow for an election before the current President’s term runs out in 2016.
The regular Barca fan, like me, says he or she desires the best possible stadium but is flexible on the economic situation. That’s why we need to be sure and to get the fans’ opinions.
The Camp Nou has to be improved but not at any cost.
Barcelona’s large complex, which currently houses Camp Nou, Palau Blaugrana (blue red, the colours of Barcelona) and the Mini Estadi, offers the opportunity to develop a masterplan to introduce new sporting and non-sporting elements such as restaurants, museum and hotel. There appear to be opportunities for commercial partnerships to finance renovation of the sporting facilities.
Benedito is clear that a new arena, with its smaller investment requirement, should be built now. He believes the socis agree. On the stadium, there are still the two options of remodelling and rebuilding and Benedito, on balance, thinks remodelling is preferable. He is also clear that:
It will be up to the socis to decide the future of the stadium, the most important decision in 50 years.