Barcelona dash young footballers' Nou Camp dreams
A group of young footballers had their dreams of playing at the Nou Camp dashed after concerns over the state of the pitch.
Loscoe AFC under-11s raised more than £10,000 to fund their participation in the Europa Cup with the promise they would get to play in the historic stadium where such stars as Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez ply their trade.
But they were told the morning of Friday’s games - scheduled to be played on Barcelona’s pitch - that they couldn’t follow in the footsteps of their heroes due to a rugby tournament scheduled to be played there eight days later.
The trip was organised through Precision Pass - a company who specialise in tournaments and tours of stadiums - but they claim to have only had 16 hours’ notice of Barcelona’s decision to cancel the tournament on the Nou Camp pitch.
Loscoe AFC chairman Charles Smyth expressed his disappointment but thanked sponsors for helping fund a memorable trip.
He said: “We played our first round of games on the Thursday. We came up against competitive sides and were a bit unlucky with the results. We were obviously looking forward to playing on the Nou Camp pitch on the Friday.
“But we were told very late on the Friday morning that Barcelona wouldn’t allow us to play at the Nou Camp because they were worried about the condition of the pitch. They had a French rugby cup final on the Saturday (June 24).
“It was massively disappointing for the boys, massively disappointing for the parents, as we’d gone on the pretence we would play at the Nou Camp.
“We were offered the compensation of one signed t-shirt for the whole team and the chance to have a look in the home dressing room.
“We went out there on the basis that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and it didn’t happen.”
He added: “The boys had a great experience regardless and we thank the sponsors for all that they’ve done but we feel let down.
“We are extremely thankful to the sponsors and the parents for all the hard work everyone put in to raise the money to get the boys over there. It was a great experience but we were let down.
“We ended up playing the final days game in the B team’s ground. Next to the Nou Camp they’ve got a smaller stadium that their B team and youth teams play in and we played our final games in there.”
Precision Pass managing director Jamie Blyett was still in Barcelona when the newspaper contacted him on Tuesday trying to agree a compensation package with the football giants.
He said: “The first day of football went smoothly on the training pitches next to the stadium and the second day was meant to be inside the stadium.
“The second day’s games was cancelled by Barcelona because of a rugby tournament to be held there this week.
“They had concerns over the state of the pitch, meaning we had to find a way of coming to a satisfactory resolution for everyone.
“The pitch was relayed three or four weeks ago and it’s not knitted as well as they had hoped. We came up with many different compromises.
“We offered to spread the matches around on different areas of the grass - anything to get the go ahead to play on the Nou Camp pitch.
“We tried everything we could to get it on but it was the CEO’s decision to cancel it. I was told 2pm the day before and we managed to get it on in the B stadium.
“This could be potentially devastating for the reputation of our company, which is built on organising these events.”
“People spent a lot of money on the trip, I’m aware of that, and we’re trying to agree on a compensation with Barcelona’s lawyers.
And added: “We have a very good compensation package but I can’t go into it before it’s finalised. We are working very hard with the club.
“Given the bombshell, we had 16 hours to put on the event, which we did. I’m as frustrated as anyone it wasn’t where we had planned.
“We took teams on to the stadium pitch to take a photo, they went into the home dressing room which isn’t open to the public and we’re trying to sort t-shirts.
“I completely understand the parents’s and children’s disappointment. A lot of people have made a lot of sacrifices to go on the trip. There were 500 kids involved.
“It’s meant to be a special occasion but it was taken out of our hands. Talks have gone on yesterday and today and we want to get it sorted as soon as possible.
“This has never happened before.”
The Eastwood Advertiser contacted FC Barcelona for comment but were yet to recieve a reply before going to press.