Barcelona will sell the title rights to its stadium Camp Nou for one year in an effort to raise money for the fight against the coronavirus, reported The Associated Press.
The Spanish club’s executive board said Tuesday it will donate the money raised by selling the title rights to the Camp Nou to fighting the global pandemic.
In a statement on Tuesday, the club said the process of finding a buyer will begin “in the next few weeks”.
“The income generated will create a fund that will be divided in the following way: a part will go towards a project on COVID-19 driven by the sponsors themselves and the rest will be shared out amongst other projects that are being developed in parallel,” the statement added.
“We want to send a universal message: For the first time someone will have the opportunity to put their name on Camp Nou and the revenues will go to all of humanity, not just Barca,” club vice president Jordi Cardoner is quoted as saying by AP.
“The initiative arose in an emergency situation. We think that we have to have a very quick response, putting our crown jewel at the service (of the fight).”
The report stated that the Catalunyan giants had planned to wait to sell the stadium’s title rights for the first time in the 2023-’24 season. Barcelona are also in the midst of renovating the biggest stadium in Europe with more than 99,000 seats which has never had a sponsor since it opened in 1957.
The stadium will maintain the name “Camp Nou” in addition to including the sponsor, the club said. The name of the stadium literally stands for new pitch in Spanish, named so when the club moved to this venue back in 1957.
The report added that Barcelona proposed using part of the money in Spain, “especially in Catalonia, and in countries where the club has current charities. Cardoner said specific projects have not been chosen, but he would like some money to go to helping the elderly, especially in the devastated nursing home sector.”
The club has taken some inspiration from their past decision to put Unicef on its shirt, which had never carried a sponsor before 2010 when they signed a deal with the Qatar Foundation. Unicef had appeared on their shirts from 2006, reported BBC.
“Being the top sporting entity in the world means we take on this challenge as fully as we can,” said Cardoner.
“If we can serve as inspiration for other organisations involved in the battle, perhaps we can create a wave of hope for millions of people around the world who are suffering due to this pandemic.”
Cardoner himself was diagnosed with the virus, and his time infected by Covid-19 was a driving factor behind this decision.
“I spent a long time in bed and had time to think,” he said. “We do a lot through our foundation, and it occurred to me that we had to think big, think big like we did with the shirt and Unicef.”
Spain has been one of the hardest-hit countries by Covid-19 pandemic, which causes respiratory failure especially in the elderly and the sick. More than 20,000 people have died in Spain.
La Liga chief Javier Tebas last week said play could restart as early as next month, although a two-week extension of the nationwide lockdown until May 9 announced Saturday appears to have scuppered those plans.
Tebas said no team training could take place until after the state of emergency ends in Spain, but he was adamant “it is not an option” to cancel the season given the massive hit to revenue Spain’s top clubs would have to absorb. He estimated cancellation would cost teams around a billion euros ($1.08 billion).
May 28-29, June 6-7 and June 28-29 were the three dates Tebas cited for a potential return to competition.
More than a month has now passed since the last football matches were played before packed stadiums in Europe, and the havoc wrought by the coronavirus pandemic means that nobody can say with any certainty when the sport might return.
The figures make for grim reading throughout Europe, with Italy, Spain, France and the United Kingdom the worst hit. Countries across the continent are now weeks into restrictive lockdowns.
(With AFP inputs)