Former Barcelona presidential candidate Agusti Benedito has called for a no-vote when club members vote on a proposed 600 million euro Camp Nou renovation this weekend, and wants a new election before any such huge decision in the club’s future is taken.
The project, first announced by former club president Sandro Rosell, would see the stadium expanded to seat 105,000 spectators and also include new “Espai Barca” corporate hospitality facilities and upgrades to the arenas used by the club’s other sports teams by 2021.
The referendum, in which 118,578 Barca socios are eligible to vote, takes place on Saturday, when the team host rock-bottom Real Betis in La Liga.
Benedito -- who came second to Rosell in the last presidential election in June 2010 -- told Europa Press that not enough details of the investment being planned have been made public.
“We are voting for smoke -- there is nothing concrete,” the Catalan entrepreneur said. “How are we capable of weighing up 400 million euros on something undefined? It seems impossible to me to make a budget without the technical details. You could also do a reform costing 200 million euros. This is a dangerous blank cheque.”
New Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu has said that 200 million euros of the cost of the project will come from the sale of limited “naming rights” to the new ground, but Benedito sees that as further evidence of the current board ceding control of the club to its Qatari commercial backers.
“There is a propaganda campaign, without any debate,” he said. “There is a blatant hiding of information. With the subject of Qatar, we have already seen how they act. [The board] deny that the 'title rights' are going there, but I do not believe that. Qatar puts into question our model and values. Conversations we have had both here and in Qatar suggest that they are behind this reform.”
Given that the renovation project’s initial backer, Rosell, has since stepped down, Benedito said the issue should form part of a new presidential election this summer to ensure the stadium’s future could be properly debated.
“The promoter of the 'Espai Barca' was the president who has resigned Rosell,” he said. “Now his friend 'Barto' [Bartomeu] has had to continue it. That merits comment. It is a decision that would need elections, and one that was led by a president with a deficit of legitimacy.”