Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu says that the ongoing controversy over Neymar’s transfer to the club last summer will not affect the referendum on the club’s new 600 million euro plan to upgrade the Camp Nou.
The club announced on Wednesday that this vote would take place on April 5, when Real Betis are set to visit the [current] Camp Nou.
Blaugrana socios -- 118,578 in total -- will be asked to vote either 'yes' or 'no' to the question “Do you approve the proposal for the new Camp Nou, the ‘espai Barça’ and the new Palau Blaugrana?" It was also confirmed that 200 million euros of the total invesment cost will be raised by selling ‘surnaming rights’ to the new ground.
Given the huge furore around the current 99 million euros cost of the Neymar deal -- amid which the stadium project’s initial backer Sandro Rosell resigned as club president -- the vote now looks very much like a referendum on whether the current board should remain in charge or not.
Rosell’s replacement told 8TV that he thought Barca members would be able to separate the ‘tax issue’ from their views on whether the new stadium project was a good idea or not.
“We want to reform the Camp Nou,” Bartomeu said. “The stadium needs to be brought up to date to give the best service to the socio. It is true that with the reform of the stadium the acceptance of a name for the ground is implicit, but that will pass through the assembly.
"I do not believe the overall situation will condition the referendum. Barca is one thing, and the project of the club. The tax issue is something else.”
The project would see the new Camp Nou seat 105,000 spectators, with a better protection from the elements, extended corporate hospitality spaces, an upgrade to Barca’s basketball, ice-hockey and swimming facilities, underground parking spaces and a new training ground for the [football] first team. Should the referendum be successful, work is scheduled to start quickly and to be completed by 2021.
Club figures are to hold more than 40 public events around Catalonia in the coming weeks to inform socios about the project, and persuade them to vote 'yes'.
The full cost of the referendum and this campaign has been estimated at 1 million euros by Mundo Deportivo. The Catalan paper was running an online poll on the issue on Thursday morning, with 53 percent of voters in favour of the new stadium project, and 47 percent against.