Barcelona agree to sell Camp Nou naming rights to raise money in fight against coronavirus

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Barcelona will sell the naming rights to their stadium for one year in an effort to raise money for the fight against the coronavirus, the club announced on Tuesday.

The club's executive board said it will donate the entire fee raised by selling the naming rights to the Camp Nou to fighting the global pandemic.

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The Camp Nou is the biggest stadium in Europe with more than 99,000 seats. It has never had a sponsor since it opened in 1957.

"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 told The Associated Press.

"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 club had planned to wait to sell the stadium's naming rights for the first time in the 2023-24 season. At that time, the club hopes to bring in €300 million paid up front for a 25-year contract to pay for renovations to the stadium and other facilities.

The stadium will maintain the name "Camp Nou" in addition to including the sponsor, the club said.

Barca's foundation for social charities, which is overseen by Cardoner, will manage the investment of the money in fighting the virus. The foundation runs programs in Spain and in 58 other countries, largely focused on at-risk youth and refugees.

The club said it hopes to close a deal "in the coming weeks." The decision will then have to be approved by a general assembly of 140,000 club members, likely to be held in October, if conditions permit.

Spain has been one of the hardest-hit countries by the outbreak, which causes respiratory failure especially in the elderly and the sick. More than 20,000 people have died in Spain, a death toll second only to the United States. The city of Barcelona and the surrounding areas in northeast Catalonia have been hotspots.

The suspension of the Spanish football amid the pandemic has put a large hole in the expected Barca revenues, forcing players to take a pay cut. Still, Cardoner said the club was not tempted to use the naming rights revenue now to help plug the holes.

The decision comes during a rocky season for Barca and president Josep Bartomeu, who has weathered a midseason coaching switch, internal tiffs between club officials and players, and the resignation of six board members.