The 2023-24 season will be an unusual one for FC Barcelona as they leave their historic and famous Nou Camp stadium – temporarily – to play their home games at the Olympic Stadium in Montjuïc.
Barça have already started renovation work at the Nou Camp, or Camp Nou as the locals call it, with large construction cranes visible in and around one of the most famous soccer venues in the world. The club’s plans are ambitious with the updated stadium set to be one of the most awe inspiring in the modern game and with capacity increasing from 99,000 to 105,000.
Anyone who has ever been lucky enough to visit Barça’s famous home ground will always remember the first time they looked out onto that hallowed turf and took in the sheer scale of the towering walls of seats in the tribunas around them. Like Old Trafford, Anfield, the Santiago Bernabéu, the San Siro, the Estadio Da Luz, the Maracanã and the Azteca, this is one of world football’s most prestigious and sacred venues.
But for now – and for at least the 2023-24 season with no defined return date established as yet – Barça are heading to the Estadi Lluis Companys, as the Olympic Stadium is also known.
The main host venue of the 1992 Summer Olympics has a 55,000 capacity and was used by Barcelona’s city neighbours Espanyol for several seasons, before they finally built their own new stadium in Cornellá y El Prat after leaving their old ground in Sarrià – which was within walking distance of the Nou Camp.
Both of those old venues, the Sarrià Stadium and the Nou Camp, were used when Spain hosted the 1982 World Cup, with one of the semi-finals played at Barça’s ground, a 2-0 victory over Poland for eventual tournament winners Italy.
The new Nou Camp is expected to be completed by Turkish constructors Limak by the summer of 2026 and to be fully operational for the 2026-27 season, but it is thought Barça will start playing there again during the 2024-25 campaign even if not at full capacity.
Current season ticket holders can transfer their tickets to the Olympic Stadium and continue to attend Barça games as normal, even if their new temporary home is somewhat ‘out of the way’. The exact figures of how many fans will retain their season tickets for the Olympic Stadium have not been released yet, but the uptake has reportedly been pretty slow.
Current Nou Camp season ticket holders have been told by Barça they can keep their season tickets at the revamped Nou Camp when the team returns, even if they don’t pay to have season tickets at the Olympic Stadium.
Saying ‘adéu’ to the ‘Spotify Nou Camp’ (as it was lately renamed), was an emotional affair, when the club played their last game there, versus Mallorca on Sunday, May 28th 2023. The match resulted in a 3-0 victory for Barça, thanks to two goals from Masia graduate Ansu Fati and another from Gavi, with the La Liga title already in the bag.
Season ticket holder and Barça soci (number 60671) Josep Escudé Marsà, who has been attending matches at the Nou Camp for nearly 40 years, described the feeling of attending such a historic game in the club’s colourful history.
“The last game was amazing,” says Josep. “It was very special in so many aspects. Apart from the fact that it was (Sergio) Busquets’ and (Jordi) Alba’s last game Barça made an effort to make it a special occasion. The old stadium announcer who was at the Camp Nou for more than 30 years, they played a recording of him welcoming you to the stadium. In fact his son is now the current announcer and their voices are practically the same, it is so beautiful.”
Josep added, “It was a very special day. I was sad, but happy at the same time because I’ve had so many amazing moments in the stadium. They played a video of some of the best moments in the stadium, special victories, against PSG, the comeback against Atletico Madrid with (Juan Antonio) Pizzi, the four La Ligas with (Johan) Cruyff and the La Liga titles with (Pep) Guardiola.”
“It was a really special and a night that we will remember because we’ll be back at the Camp Nou in a year and a half, but it’s going to be a different Camp Nou. It was a really nice way to say goodbye to the stadium.”
The stadium has seen so many famous nights for Barça fans down the years as they’ve celebrated the skills of the likes of Johann Cruyff (as a player and coach), Diego Maradona, Gary Lineker, Romario, Ronaldo (Nazário), Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Andrés Iniesta and of course, Lionel Messi.
Having been inaugurated originally in 1957, the record ever attendance for a football match at the Nou Camp was a massive 120,000 for FC Barcelona vs Juventus in the 1986 European Cup Quarter Final.
The stadium witnessed Manchester United’s remarkable late comeback to beat Bayern Munich 2-1 in the 1999 Champions League final with two goals in injury time, clinching a first ever ‘treble’ for an English club.
That might have been a near spiritual experience for United fans on their heralded ‘balmy night in Barcelona’, though 17 years previously there was genuine religious feast at the Nou Camp, when Pope John Paul II celebrated a Mass there in 1982 to a congregation of 120,000 worshippers.
About the club’s forthcoming, temporary relocation, Josep explained, “Going to Montjuïc, I consider it as a necessary evil! We have no other choice, because the Camp Nou is really old. It is sad, we don’t like it, but we have to do it. It’s not a perfect solution but it’s the only solution we found.”
“To understand how bad an option it is, no other friends of mine who are members are going to Montjuïc, I’m the only one that has signed on for it. So, it’s going to be a tough year for sure. No matter if Messi would have come back anyway, we don’t like to go to Montjuïc, but we have to do it.”