Gibraltar will get its own national football stadium after a deal was struck by the Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) to buy Victoria Stadium.
The GFA said an agreement has been reached with the Gibraltar Government and UEFA on a major project that will see both the construction of a UEFA Category 4 National Football Stadium in Gibraltar and other sporting facilities.
Since its admission into UEFA, the GFA said it has been working tirelessly with the Government to find a suitable location to construct a UEFA Category 4 National Football Stadium – an essential requirement for Gibraltar’s national teams to play International Competitions such as the EURO and FIFA World Cup qualifiers on the Rock.
The GFA said:
The obvious choice, Victoria Stadium, was rejected from the outset by UEFA who were not prepared to allocate any funds for the upgrading of a municipal stadium that was not owned by the GFA and which UEFA technicians did not, in any event, like.
Two principal sites were then identified by the GFA, Europa Point and Lathbury Parade Ground. After much consideration, both presented problems which made them unviable. Other ideas and sites have been considered and discarded.
The GFA said it 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 that effort to find an alternative site, and after much discussions with UEFA towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year, the GFA has now been able to persuade UEFA to drop its objection to the Victoria Stadium. UEFA has now accepted the Victoria Stadium on condition that the Gibraltar Government would sell it to the GFA.
The GFA wrote to the Government on 20 March 2017 formally requesting the sale of the Victoria Stadium to the GFA.
The GFA added:
In line with its continued support to the GFA in doing everything possible to bring international football to Gibraltar and its people, 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 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.
The GFA said it was also delighted to note that 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, said:
This is an incredibly exciting project for football in Gibraltar, and indeed for sport in general. 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.
Image courtesy of Red dragon rock at English Wikipedia