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Soccer-Barca members back Nou Camp stadium remodelling plans

Reuters

MADRID, April 5 (Reuters) - Barcelona's members have backed plans to remodel the club's iconic Nou Camp stadium to increase the capacity of Europe's biggest soccer venue from 98,000 to 105,000 and help boost sponsorship and matchday revenue.

Just over 72 percent of Barca's members who took part in a referendum on Saturday voted in favour and 25 percent rejected the project. Less than a third of those eligible to vote, or 37,535 members, took part.

The construction work, which includes an indoor basketball arena and various other installations nearby, is expected to cost around 600 million euros ($822 million) and would begin in 2017 and be completed by early 2021.

The backing of members was a rare piece of good news for president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who has been under pressure over last year's controversial signing of Brazil forward Neymar and the ban imposed on the club this week by FIFA for breaching rules on the transfer of foreign under-18 players.

Bartomeu's predecessor Sandro Rosell, who has denied any wrongdoing, was forced to step down in January amid allegations of misappropriation of funds and tax fraud in the Neymar deal.

"In 2021 we will have a Nou Camp which will be a source of pride," Bartomeu told a news conference.

The club would publish a more detailed timetable for the project after the end of the season and would be appointing an independent working group to oversee it, he added.

Matches will still be played while the remodelling, which would see a striking new shell-like roof added to the current structure, opened in 1957, is carried out.

The plans include building a steeper bottom tier to improve visibility for spectators. There will be new restaurants with a view of the pitch and so-called "super boxes" and other VIP services.

Saturday's vote was only the second in the club's 115-year history. The first was in 1950 when members backed plans to move from the old Las Corts stadium to the Nou Camp. ($1 = 0.7303 euros) (Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Martyn Herman)

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