Camp Nou vote crucial for Barcelona - Bartomeu
FC Barcelona's president Josep Maria Bartomeu answers to AFP journalists during an interview at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on March 24, 2014 - by Lluis Gene
Bartomeu told AFP sport in an exclusive interview the reforms are more important than his board. "It is a project that will last for the next 50 or 60 years, therefore it cannot be something tied to this board."
The club's 164,000 members will vote on April 5 on the renovation project which would be partly financed by adding a sponsor's name to the historic Camp Nou title.
The renovation would take the Nou Camp capacity from 99,000 to 105,000 -- extending its lead as Europe's biggest football stadium. It could also help Barcelona, the world's second richest club, make ground on leaders and eternal rivals Real Madrid.
Bartomeu took charge of Barcelona in January after Sandro Rosell resigned as he faced legal action accusing him of misappropriation of funds for not disclosing the destination of all the money spent on Brazilian star Neymar last year.
Subsequently, on Bartomeu's first day in charge, the club revealed all the figures and clauses involved in the deal, which totalled 86.2 million euros.
However, as a result Barca were then indicted by a Spanish judge for an alleged 13.5 million euro tax fraud linked to the signing.
Barcelona have voluntarily paid that amount in full, although they continue to protest their innocence and are confident the money will be returned following a full investigation.
And Bartomeu stressed that the referendum is not an opinion poll on his succession to the presidency.
"All that we have done is for the club, we have worked at it, done the studies and now we are putting forward an informative and democratic campaign to the members. The important thing for us and everyone else is that the referendum is the club's project, not the board's."
The proposed project includes work on the football stadium and the creation of a new basketball arena and club offices across a 20 hectare site.
An overhaul of the stadium would also allow Barcelona to improve their hospitality facilities to significantly increase their matchday revenue, one of the few economic areas in which they still lag behind European rivals.
"We are not going to use naming rights, but title rights. Our idea is that the Camp Nou will have a surname.
"It is a way to help finance the project. This is an ambitious project that in total with the basketball arena and the new stadium for the Barca B football team is around 600 million euros ($860 million), which is a huge investment.
"With the title right we will finance a third of the project. The other two thirds will come from income that the club has and generates regularly and from the extra income we will have thanks to the new facilities."
However, Bartomeu is steadfast that the extra commercialisation of the club along with the bad publicity generated by Neymar's signing does not damage Barca's "more than a club" motto.
"FC Barcelona, for the members and those of us who are fans, is more than a club. It has always been so.
"In this case we have always tried to demonstrate and use the values that represent Barcelona in our declarations, actions, in the way in which we have managed the club and will continue to do so.
"In the case of Neymar we are very calm because we have done things properly, and legally.
"Moreover, we are not a club that is used to signing players constantly from other clubs. We are a club that always tries to form players in our academy, who grow little by little before arriving at the first team."