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Real Madrid: New Bernabéu unveiling delayed by war in Ukraine

The difficulty obtaining materials, especially steel, plus rising costs due to inflation mean Real Madrid’s stadium will not be ready until the start of the 2023/4 season.


The date when Real Madrid had hoped to unveil the New Santiago Bernabéu stadium has been set back - at least until the start of the 2023/4 season, as club president Florentino Pérez confirmed during his guests appearance on El Chiringuito earlier this week. “It will be ready within the next year, approximately, at the end of next season. As soon as work started, we were hit by the pandemic. And now the war in Ukraine and that, as we all know, has caused two things - raw materials have become more scarce and price rises. But we will find a way to get over those problems and we are happy that we started when we did, even though it was before the pandemic”.

In spite of all of the difficulties which Madrid have faced with revamping their stadium, Florentino knows that having a modern, multi-purpose stadium is the key to the club’s economic stability in the future: “Thanks to [former president] Santiago Bernabéu, the stadium is in the best part of Madrid. We have been very lucky with that. We only play 26 or 27 matches there a year, so, with it being such an emblematic venue, we thought it would be ideal to turn it into the most important sports and leisure complex in Europa. It’s common sense. It will provide substantial revenue for us, and we have an agreement in place with stadiums operations firm Legends, who can do all of the things we can’t do, and we are delighted with the economic deal, which is really good”. By using their stadium for other events when it is not being used for football, Real Madrid could gain an extra 150 million euros per year.

Work continues on the Santiago Bernabéu, this image from February 2022.
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Work continues on the Santiago Bernabéu, this image from February 2022. HELIOS DE LA RUBIADiarioAS

Work on the Bernabéu began in the summer of 2019, starting with the demolition of the adjoining shopping mall on Calle del Padre Damián, known as La Esquina del Bernabéu. At the time, it was estimated that the remodelling work would be complete by the summer of 2022, as indicated on the original construction licence. But the Coronavirus pandemic scuppered those plans. Initially, it seemed that the break in competition could help to speed up work on the stadium. But as it turned out, that wasn’t the case - when competition resumed and sports stadiums reopened, Madrid had to adapt their ground every three days so the the public could attend games.

During the final weeks of the 2019-20 season and for the 2020-21 season in its entirety, Madrid played their home games at the Alfredo Di Stéfano stadium in their Valdebebas training complex - during that time, little or no headway was made on the Bernabéu as it had been arranged that materials would be delivered in stages and that process couldn’t be sped up. Some materials were delayed due to the standstill in manufacturing as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. But the real problem came towards the end of the 2021/2 season, by which time, Madrid were back playing their home games at the Bernabéu.

14 December 2022 unveiling ruled out

By the time the season had entered its decisive stage during the final few weeks of action, work on the stadium’s retractile roof had to be suspended due to the global shortage of steel. Ukraine is one of the leading producers of steel (it was 13th in terms of world production in 2019) but that changed when Russia invaded the country on 24 February. Some of the heaviest fighting was centred around the Azovstal iron and steel plant in Mariupol. As the conflict continued, it became increasingly harder to source materials and there is no guarantee that the situation in Ukraine will end soon. FCC, the construction firm carrying out the remodelling work on the Bernabéu have sought to source essential materials from elsewhere but they are already behind schedule and as a consequence, it is now inevitable that the date for the official presentation of the New Bernabéu will be set back. According to Florentino’s own estimation, the new stadium won’t be finished until the summer of 2023 at the earliest.

At the start of the 2021/2 campaign, Real Madrid had earmarked 14 December 2022 as the date for the official inauguration of the New Bernabéu - to coincide with the stadium’s 75th anniversary. But that idea has since been affected by the conflict in Ukraine. The club had some reservations about unveiling their new stadium on 14 December as it could clash with the World Cup final which will be played four days later. Apart from taking the limelight from a key club event, several Madrid players might not be able to attend if their national teams are still competing in Qatar. For the time being there is no new date on the agenda, all the club hope for is that their new stadium will be finished and fully operational for the start of the 2023/4 season.


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