The difference between a church and a cathedral is that the Archbishop of a city preaches from the cathedral. Also a city can only be classified as a city if there is a cathedral in it. Otherwise it is a town regardless of its size. As defined by Catholic law there can only be one cathedral per city. The cathedral in Barcelona is known as The Holy Cross of Saint Eulàlia and it is a stunning example of nuevo gothic architecture. But some may argue that there is another cathedral in Barcelona. One that fills up with nearly one hundred thousand people each weekend to watch one of the most celebrated football teams in history strut their stuff on its hallowed turf. This place is called Camp Nou.
With a seating capacity of 99,354 it is the largest stadium in Spain and Europe, and the second largest association football stadium in the world in capacity. The largest football stadium in the world? If you guess this you should win every pub quiz you have ever taken part in….Pyongyang in North Korea. The stadium there holds 114,000 people!
The construction of Camp Nou started on 28 March 1954 as Barcelona’s previous stadium, Camp de Les Corts, had no room for expansion as it was closer in in the city. Although originally planned to be called the Estadi del FC Barcelona, the more popular name Camp Nou was used. The stadium underwent an expansion in 1980, in anticipation of the 1982 FIFA World Cup, which added boxes, VIP lounges, a new press area, new markers and the construction of the third tier, which was smaller in height than the original design by 6 metres. The expansion of the stadium added 22,150 new seats, taking the total seating capacity to 71,731, and the standing capacity was expanded by 16,500 to 49,670, taking the total stadium capacity (seated and standing combined) to 121,401 which of course made it the biggest stadium in the world. FC Barcelona’s record attendance was set on 5 March 1986 in the European Cup quarter-final against Juventus in front of 120,000 spectators, just 1,401 shy of the stadium’s capacity!
On 18 September 2007, the British architect Norman Foster and his company were selected to “restructure” Camp Nou. With an estimated cost of €250 million, the plan included the addition of roughly 6,000 seats for a maximum capacity of 105,000. The FC Barcelona board approved the sale of their former training ground (the Mini Estadi) against significant opposition in order to finance the remodeling. The project was planned to begin in 2009 and to be finished for the 2011–12 season. However, due to the 2008 financial crisis, the sale of the training ground was postponed and likewise the remodeling project. In May 2010, Sandro Rosell, then a candidate for president of FC Barcelona, dismissed the possibility of selling the Mini Estadi, saying it would be indefensible to “sell the crown jewels”, and his election on 30 June 2010 effectively halted the plan to remodel Camp Nou. Much to the disappointment of many football fans eager to get a ticket!
In January 2014, Barcelona’s board of directors rejected the option of building a new stadium due to financial constraints and instead opted to remodel the Camp Nou to bring the capacity up to 105,000. The project is expected to cost around €600 million with. Work began in 2017 with a completion date of early 2021 with one of the most expensive seat to cost of expansion ratios. A refined plan was released on 26 May 2015, showing plans to add a canopy over the stands, and showing the plans for seating expansion in greater detail.
When all this is eventually completed this will be one of the longest anticipated expansions ever and will make for a truly magnificent stadium. Anyone who has experienced what it is like when they are in a football stadium and a team scored knows the colossal noise and excitement for thousands upon thousands of people. The largest club football stadium in England (besides Wembley where the national team plays) is Old Trafford, home of Manchester United. The capacity here is a little over 75,000. By the time the Nou Camp is completed there will be room for half of Old Trafford’s fans again onto of their capacity.
It has already hosted a huge number of very important games, not only those of their home side Barcelona F.C. but other teams from around the world. It has hosted two European Cup/Champions League finals in 1989 and 1999, two UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup finals, four Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final games, five UEFA Super Cup final games, four Copa del Rey finals, two Copa de la Liga final games, twenty-one Supercopa de España final games, five matches including the opening game of the 1982 FIFA World Cup, two out of four matches at the 1964 European Nations’ Cup and the football competition final at the 1992 Summer Olympics.
The stadium has not only held football games, given its size it has been the home of music concerts for staggering crowds. In 1983, Julio Iglesias played for 60,000 people. Other high-profile performances at Camp Nou include those by Bruce Springsteen on 3 August 1988 during his Tunnel of Love Express Tour; and again on 19 and 20 July 2008 during his Magic Tour. On 9 August 1988, Michael Jackson appeared at the stadium in front of 95,000 fans during his Bad World Tour. On 10 September 1988, a charity concert organised by Amnesty International to support human rights featured, among others, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Youssou N’Dour, Tracy Chapman, and El Último de la Fila. Also a concert by the Three Tenors – Josep Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti – was held on 13 July 1997.
Whether you are football fan or not this stadium is definitely worth a visit on a Barcelona trip. A stadium tour will set you back from 20 euros for the basic tour. It can go up to 90 euros if you want a tour of the local teams dressing room and VIP areas of the club. Tickets for games are considerably more expensive. Depending on how far in advance you book you could be lucky enough to get a seat from 80-100 euros. For big games however this can rise to thousands so be sure to book early!