The Espai Barça is longer a dream for Barça fans, but will instead become a reality in five years. A total of 42,693 members voted YES in the binding referendum to ratify the decision made by the Assembly of Delegate Members to give the green light for the Espai Barça financing operation in the form of 87.8% votes in support of the motion out of the total number of votes, 48,623. Of these, only 5,055 voted NO (10.4%) and 875 (1.8%) voted in blank. Barça has thus shown once again that it is a very living club and that the blaugrana community is aware of the importance of Espai Barça for the future sporting and economic viability of the club.
But beyond the results, the referendum was a huge success in terms of turnout, with members responding strongly to the club's call for action on a decision of such importance for its overall future, thus boosting the legitimacy of the most transcendental decision in recent Barça history.
A total of 48,623 members with voting rights (110,159 of 18 years or over and that have been members for a minimum of one year) took part in the online vote, an all-time record for club referendums, far greater than the turnout for the Espai Barça referendum in 2014, which was in person and collected 37.535 votes (31.65% of the electoral roll, or 118,290 members), with 27,161 voting YES (72.36% of votes), 9,589 voting NO (25.5%) and 751 in blank (2%). As such, the referendum reinforces the support for the yes vote, with a rise of 15 points between the two referendums, going from 72.36% in favour in 2014 to 87.8% in 2021, a 21.34% increase in the yes vote.
The democratic spirit that has always been part of Barça since it was founded 122 years ago was very visible this Sunday in the first referendum to function entirely online rather than using traditional ballot boxes. It meant that members could vote comfortably from anywhere In the world, without having to travel, which is especially important in times of pandemic, when safety and full guarantees are so paramount. Only a few members chose instead to go in person to the Auditori 1899 to cast their votes in person on the electronic screens that were made available for the purpose.
There was good news from the moment the polls opened. The club announced the turnout in absolute figures and figures every hour. At 10am CET the figure was 7,411 (6.72%); at 11am it was 13,489 (12.24%); at 12pm it was 18,884 (16.96%); at 1pm it was 22,393 (20.33%); at 2pm it was 25,417 (23.07%); at 3pm it was 28,147 (25.55%); at 4pm it was 31,005 (28.14%) and by 5pm it had reached 35,783 (32.45%), when the secretary of the board, Josep Cubells, announced that “the procedure has gone ahead smoothly and without major incident, apart from two Chinese members who could not vote because the system was blocked by their mobile operator, but the club intervened and the members were finally able to vote."
Throughout the afternoon, turnout continued to grow at a good pace, and by 6pm the total number of votes in the 2014 referendum had been exceeded, with 39,084 votes (35.48%), with three hours of voting left. At 7 pm, there were 42,057 votes (38.18% of the voters in the census) and at 8 pm, one hour before the end of the election day, the number of voters reached 45,987 (41.74%). This figure now surpassed the 1997 presidential election (31,485 votes and 34.38% of the electoral roll), and it could be predicted that the 2015 election records would also be broken (47,270 with 43.12% turnout), as indeed was the case with final figure of 48,623 votes, accounting for 44.14% of the electoral census.
Once the electronic ballot boxes were closed, at 9 pm, the Consultation Board began the count. To access the results, each of the custodians had to enter their fragment of the digits making up the complete code. Just after 9.30pm, the secretary of the Board of Directors, Josep Cubells, announced the final result, accompanied by the five members of the Consultation Board, chosen by lots as set out in the FC Barcelona Statutes.
The club celebrates the fact that the vote went ahead under absolute normality, without major incidents, and the few contingencies related to member data were smoothly resolved. The telephone service received 1,300 calls, a thousand of which were related members having changed their phone numbers and not updating it in the records and therefore not receiving the message required to vote. About two thousand changes to PIN numbers were also made through online procedures.
Ratification of Assembly's support
Sunday's binding referendum ratifies the authorisation for the Board of Directors to implement whatever actions it deems necessary or convenient to procure funding for the Espai Barça project, which under no circumstances may be greater than 1,500 million euros. From now, a finance operation will be negotiated with Goldman Sachs, through expert international operators in the finance of stadiums and sports venues, under the previously agreed terms: a return on the investment in 25 years, with a five-year grace period, as payment shall not be made until the work on the stadium is finished and it starts to generate revenue.
That is because Espai Barça will be financed by the increased revenue generated by the new project. The estimate is that Espai Barça will raise some 200 million euros a year thanks to sponsorship and naming rights, ticketing, catering, VIP boxes, hospitality and Meeting & Events.