x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Tourists help bolster numbers at Barcelona's Camp Nou

Barcelona are making full use of their city's tourist trade to boost their attendance figures.

Barcelona's average support this season has grown at home to 81,371 a game. Stephen Pond / Empics
Barcelona's average support this season has grown at home to 81,371 a game. Stephen Pond / Empics

The temporary ticket office on La Rambla advertises seats to watch Barcelona against Mallorca on Saturday night from "just €45". That is Dh225.

Not every football club can benefit from millions of tourists visiting their city each year, but FC Barcelona is a reason why so many visit the Catalan capital and the club count on around 10,000 football tourists for most weekend matches, mainly from northern Europe.

With Camp Nou's capacity of 98,000 making it the biggest stadium in world football in regular use, there are plenty of spaces to sell - something Barca have become adept at doing.

The majority of non-football tourists often have no idea when Barca are playing, but the Spanish champions have placed a sales office in the middle of the main tourist thoroughfare with great success.

A quick visit showed that all the €45 tickets had sold out - as had the €65 and €70 seats behind the goal. Regular fans accuse tourists of diluting the atmosphere, cynics counter that there is no atmosphere to dilute.

Despite unemployment in Spain rising above 20 per cent and the Spanish economy remaining in dire straits, Barca's attendances are surging.

Their average home crowd after eight games of the season two years ago was 70,051. Last season that had risen to 75,918. This season it is 81,371, making Pep Guardiola's side the best supported in world football and putting them 10,000 ahead of their great rivals Real Madrid.

The increase is doubly pleasing for Barca because tourist fans pay four times the price of a local fan with a season ticket. Barca's presidents are reluctant to ramp up season ticket prices because they need votes from those season ticket holders.

Barca could sell even more tickets if they could persuade season ticket holders who do not attend matches to give them any unwanted tickets. Many hold season tickets as a status symbol and only use them for the biggest games.

Barca also plan to increase the capacity of Camp Nou above 100,000 - and to benefit from the financial muscle that comes with that. With Real's capacity limited to 80,000, the Catalans could open a gulf in match day revenues that the sides receive.

Barca's city rivals Espanyol intend to tap into the visiting tourist trade too, but there is one problem. They are not Barca.

sports@thenational.ae


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