Nou Camp Visit

After spending a week in Barcelona, you have to feel that this, if anything, must be the home of Samba football in Europe. A city that parties till 3 AM every night, where the music plays on the beach till the wee hours of the morning, and revellers straggle back till dawn on a daily basis. A city with refulgent architecture, inspirational art and a history that is as resplendent and embellished as any other city must surely be the best place for Ronaldhinho to ply his art. The Nou camp, therefore, is a must see on most tourist itineraries, if there are any males involved in the travel planning.

Sadly, on this trip we’ve made two trips and not been able to see much. The first was a whoosh through on the city’s Bus Turistic – the hop on – hop off all day affair, which we were using to just get a shortlist going and get a view of the city itself. On the second, a concerted trip to just see Nou Camp, we got there with an hour to go for closing time, only to be told at the ticket window that their Credit Card machine wasn’t working. The only way out was to walk AROUND the stadium to the cash machine 15 minutes away, and back. Clearly not a viable option for us given the time. So we satisfied ourselves by wandering into the ubiquitious megastore and contributing to Barcelona transfer kitty by buying a t-shirt.

I was left feeling, though, that these are the areas where the biggest changes need to come into football. We’ve all read about the darker side of the corporatization that the sport has endured. The greedy agents, the selling out of clubs and stadiums, the ticket prices blah blah. But how about the things which businesses in general are very good at? Taking care of customers? Football clubs in the corporate era have customers as much as they have fans. Fans are a smaller bunch of emotionally bound followers who will endure a lot more nonsense and in return claim a moral ownership of the club and protest against unpopular decisions. But customers are a loosely bound and hugely larger set who will simply transact – to watch a game, or buy a shirt or pay for TV games and not expect much more than the value of that transaction in return. You can ill-treat fans – the way you can ill treat your family members, knowing that they can’t really get rid of you or stop being a brother or sister or parent. You can’t mistreat customers simply because they are not there for reasons of loyalty and they are just as happy to spend their money anywhere else. If I’m in Manchester or Madrid tomorrow, I’ll go to their museums and who knows, when I come back to Barcelona, I may not want to do a tour of yet another stadium.

What could they have done? Well they could have sold the same tickets at the megastore, which was 100 meters away, and did have a working credit card machine. They could have done a special discount for people who did buy stuff from the store to get a ticket alongside… the opportunities are limitless, really.

The business of football needs its customers, as much as it needs its fans, to pay off these massive debts and the mega salaries. And the sooner it can make this a philosophy at the grass roots, at every “moment of truth” the better it will be for the clubs.

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