The Malta Independent 20 July 2019, Saturday

Sanctioning of upgrading at Victor Tedesco Stadium approved

Malta Independent Monday, 29 October 2012, 08:18 Last update: about 6 years ago

The Mepa board approved the sanctioning of the upgrading of the Victor Tedesco Stadium in Hamrun, delivering at the same time a stern rebuke (and a fine) to the MFA for doing works without a permit.

The football ground was built in the 1980s by the central government. However, its situation left much to be desired: there was no security whatsoever especially at exits, no turnstiles, no electric gates, no facilities for the disabled. The stadium was substandard, its toilets were abysmal, and to get into them one had to risk walking in the rain.

Entry to one sector was through a bar, the VIP area was accessed by means of a steep staircase, as was Side C. There were also unfinished buildings.

The upgrading plan enlarged the seating capacity from 1,694 to 1,962; put in adequate toilets and bar facilities, and created a hall for Hamrun Spartans where its committee could meet. Another change is that now, as happens anywhere in Europe, the two teams and the referee come out of the same tunnel, instead of separately. There is now a new exit which conforms to fire and safety regulations.

The stadium is now safer for Side B can be used only when there is a crowded attendance. Otherwise, it is left closed. The stadium also got corporate hospitality areas.

The area will also be landscaped and parking increased by eight spaces.

As to the stadium’s capacity, the architect claimed that at no time is full capacity reached for the biggest crowd last season was on 12 May when 1,295 people attended. Games in the Premier League that attract capacity crowds take place at the Ta’ Qali Stadium.

But none of the speakers on behalf of the application, including the MFA top brass, as much as mentioned that the upgrading has so far been done without a proper permit.

The sanctioning of the upgrading of Victor Tedesco stadium, included part demolition of previously existing structures; sanctioning the construction of extension of facilities at dressing room level -2 including main entrance leading to this level, bar area level -1, other facilities at ground floor and first floor in Triq Mile End and alterations to secondary entrance in Triq Schembri; and proposed upgrading of area in front of main entrance including landscaping and parking.

MFA CEO Bjorn Vassallo explained what MFA has been doing to upgrade football in Malta.

Many clubs had legal title to the grounds but had no money to develop adequate facilities. This led to a situation where no fewer than 31 teams all played at the Centenary Stadium and matches had to be staggered at all times to fit them all in. including matches e.g. starting at 9am.

The MFA now has created seven regional stadia in Malta, including this one and thus matches are all at a more convenient time. Clubs get to keep their gate money.

MFA president Norman Darmanin Demajo said many things are changing. This stadium has artificial turf and most grounds now have adequate, UEFA-level, facilities.

Mr Darmanin Demajo apologized if the MFA did things in ignorance of the law but he argued that stadia such as the Hamrun one are ideal for football in Malta, rather than the Ta’ Qali stadium which can take 17,000 spectators.

This is the only stadium with artificial turf, Mr Vassallo argued, and in times like these four weeks, when the Ta’ Qali ground is re-seeded, the Hamrun ground is the only one that can take Premier League matches.

Besides, the area has good public transport connections, for instance when Valletta are playing and is easily accessible from Valletta.

The discussion at board level focused on why was there the need to increase the stadium’s capacity. The architect argued that the stadium was anyway unfinished and the 1,694 claimed seating capacity was based on an estimate. Probably, since people sat on cement steps, the capacity was even higher.

As to parking, there is an understanding with the nearby school for parking to be allowed in its grounds on days of capacity crowds (and also when the two political parties hold events nearby).

Mr Darmanin Demajo argued that the stadium is in the midst of a developed area and not a greenfield one. This is a situation one encounters in other places in Europe, such as White Hart Lane where Tottenham Hotspurs play.

Mr Vassallo also mentioned that apart from very good public transport connections, there is also Park & Ride nearby and the police close off the surrounding streets to allow parking there.

In Division One, it is Zejtun which provides the biggest crowds.

As to objections by the Light Pollution Group, Mr Vassallo said the MFA recently inaugurated LED lighting at Luxol Ground, another regional stadium. The Hamrun stadium will soon be changing its lighting system to energy saving.

Mepa deputy chairman Franco Montesin said the improvement was needed for access was only through a bar and in case  of an emergency when people wanted to get out, that could have been a problem.

However, he warned, the MFA must never come again with a ‘fait accompli’. Mepa does not like to impose fines. Board member Joe Farrugia agreed, claiming that the stadium management did not take any notice of an enforcement notice and submitted the application at a very late stage.

Mepa’s enforcement director said that works had stopped when the enforcement notice was served.

The architect argued that the management could not do otherwise since there were some Europa League matches coming up and once works began they required more work to be done. He expressed regret and apologized for this behaviour.

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