New £100 Million Football Stadium – Why the Savings Bank?

By 22nd November 2022 No Comments

The announcement by the Government that the new National Football Stadium will be paid with funds from the Savings Bank raises questions that need clear answers.

Why should savers monies (in effect public monies) be used for this? In 2016 the GFA announced that the new stadium would be built with monies from UEFA. What has happened to that promise?

Additionally, in 2017 the Government sold the Victoria Stadium to the GFA for a sum of £16.5Million. The Government stated then that “in addition, the GFA will invest in the region of £15M in the redevelopment of the Victoria Stadium and the old Sports Hall. As a result Gibraltar will enjoy a National Football Stadium at no cost at all to the taxpayer.” Is UEFA still making a contribution? Why is the stadium no longer being built exclusively with UEFA monies and at no cost to the taxpayer or with savings bank monies?

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “We appreciate football is a sport with mass participation and community interest but with a project like this it is important to scrutinise what has been announced and receive assurances on what community benefit will be derived by it and that savers monies are being properly used for a clear and guaranteed return. We can all agree that football may need a new stadium but this announcement has raised eyebrows and questions that need answering and it is the duty of the Opposition to seek answers to these questions.”

The Government is in a public finances crisis. Many people in Gibraltar are enduring a cost of living crisis. At a time like this with a major hole in Government finances why should savings bank monies be dedicated to this scheme when there could be better projects for which monies should be directed?

How does an 8000-seater football stadium project fall within the Government’s National Economic Plan the objectives of which were to secure “economic growth”? With a couple of hundred spectators for most league games and a couple of thousand even for World Cup games is an 8000-seater stadium excessive? Could the objective have been achieved with a smaller stadium?

What is the cost of such a project and how much will be put forward by the Savings Bank. It would not be a surprise that a project of the size announced would cost upwards of £40-50M.

What is the structure of the proposed project? Why are a relatively unknown and opaque new company by the name of Community Services and Supplies Limited involved? This is the company applying for the Coaling Island project in respect of which the Government weirdly stated they were not directly involved when it is clear they are the hand behind the project. It has also recently applied to construct a residential building at the site of the Laguna Youth Club as well as being the entity behind the planning application for the Eastern Beach promenade. CSSL is also involved in the Rooke sites as well as in the proposed Devil’s Tower hostel project. Transparency is needed as to who is involved and why, who is building the stadium project and at what cost and who is benefiting commercially from the proposed project if any third party is.

The Government sold the land and stadium to GFA. Why is it now, in effect, using public monies to pick up the tab for a project that Gibraltar was told would be paid for by UEFA. Additionally the price of the 2016 sale is now questionable if commercial and residential use will be allowed. Commercial and residential development will generate profits that could not have been factored in when the Government sold the land for £16.5M. Was it value for money and who will benefit from the scheme which is now being paid from savers money?

This is not a Government that has a good track record of completion of its glossy announcements set out in their electoral manifestos. We’ve seen that with the Island Games projects, National Theatre, the housing developments at Hassans Centenary Terraces, Bob Peliza Mews and Chatham Views or economic developments such as the Victoria Keys or Bluewater projects. Some of these don’t happen at all or if they do happen are years delayed. The Island Games facilities have only been finished this year – 3 years after the Island Games themselves! If this happens again our footballers will regrettably be playing their international home games in Portugal for a long time.