GFA to purchase Victoria Stadium to create new National Stadium
The Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) has reached agreement with the Gibraltar Government and UEFA on a major project that will see both the construction of a UEFA Category 4 National Football Stadium and also other sporting facilities that will solve all football/soccer (and other sports) infrastructure problems for generations to come. Even better, all of this comes at no cost to the Gibraltar taxpayer.
As has been well documented, the GFA has, since its admission into UEFA back in 2013, been working tirelessly with the Gibraltar Government to find a suitable location to construct a UEFA Category 4 National Football Stadium; an essential requirement for the country’s national teams to achieve their aspirations of playing in international competitions such as the UEFA European Championships and FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Gibraltar.
The obvious choice, Victoria Stadium, was initially rejected by UEFA who were not prepared to allocate any funds for the upgrading of a municipal stadium that was not actually owned by the GFA. Two principal sites were then identified by the GFA, Europa Point and Lathbury Parade Ground. However, after much consideration, it was deemed that both presented problems which made them unviable. Other ideas and sites were duly considered and discarded.
The GFA was therefore left with no option but to revert to UEFA with a detailed brief that explained all the work that had been done to identify a site and explaining that, despite all good efforts, none could be found. As a result of those efforts to find an alternative site, and after much discussions with UEFA towards the end of last year and the beginning of this, the Victoria Stadium site was recognised as the only viable option.
UEFA accepted the Victoria Stadium site on condition that the Gibraltar Government sell it to the GFA.
The GFA therefore wrote to the Government on 20 March, 2017, formally requesting the sale of the Victoria Stadium to the GFA. In line with its continued support to the GFA in doing everything possible to bring international football to Gibraltar and its people, the Government granted the GFA’s request to purchase the site.
The new National Stadium will therefore be constructed at the current Victoria Stadium site, which will be purchased by the GFA using the UEFA and FIFA funding specifically reserved for infrastructure projects. The new stadium will therefore be a UEFA Category 4 stadium, possibly with an exemption on capacity, which is envisaged to be set at around 8,000.
The sale consists of the main pitch, the Main and East Stands, the old sports hall, Pitch No.2 and a number of other plots around the perimeter of the main pitch. The GFA will make use of these additional areas to construct small-sized pitches for youth games, as well as to provide new training facilities for clubs and national teams.
In a statement, the GFA confirmed:
…the GFA is delighted to note that [the] Government has committed itself to using the funds it will receive from the sale of Victoria Stadium to launch an extensive infrastructure project which will result in the construction of two new multi-sports facilities at Lathbury and Europa Point containing a number of smaller-sized training pitches and two new smaller stadiums for football, rugby, cricket and other sports. This commitment was crucial in obtaining UEFA’s agreement to the whole deal.
The General Secretary of the GFA, Dennis Beiso, remarked:
This is an incredibly exciting project for football in Gibraltar, and indeed for sport in general. We have been grappling with the stadium issue for years now, and it is a great relief to finally be able to break the back of this problem in such a fundamental way. Indeed, our efforts over the years in trying to identify a site have been rewarded by generous financial support from UEFA and FIFA and a very supportive Gibraltar Government that has allowed us to consider the various options we have put to it and which has undertaken to invest the funds that it will receive from its sale of the Victoria Stadium on sporting infrastructure. We are very grateful to them both. This project will eliminate sporting infrastructure issues for generations to come. Football will finally come home, and there will be no repeat of the current situation where our clubs and national teams are not allowed to play at their home stadium because the facilities do not meet the norms.
I can also confirm that, as from the launch of the new UEFA Nations League in September 2018, the national team will play at home, our clubs will be able to play their UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League qualifiers next summer, and other national teams – our U21s, our U19s and our U17s, will be able to host matches and tournaments at home as well. In short, the unfortunate situation we have had this year with our clubs, and since 2013 with our national team, will be a thing of the past and football will finally be able to benefit from top-quality facilities financed by both UEFA and FIFA.
Furthermore, the Government’s commitment to invest the funds for the development of additional sporting facilities will bring to an end the scarcity of alternative pitches and training facilities in Gibraltar. This is a major contribution to the development of the sport in Gibraltar.
Image of Victoria Stadium, courtesy: GFA