The Malta Independent 9 December 2018, Sunday

PA pours cold water on Valletta FC €250 million sports village project

Albert Galea Thursday, 18 October 2018, 11:54 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Planning Authority has poured cold water over a €250 million sports village project that Valletta FC and their new investors from Dubai want to carry out.

A majority stake of Valletta FC, who are Malta’s reigning champions having won the BOV Premier League last season, was recently acquired by a group of Dubai-based investors called Sanban Group.  The investors bought 70% of the club, but Victor Sciriha retained his post as president of the club, a post he has held since 2007.

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Speaking to sports programme Replay on NET Television, Sciriha explained that the Arab investors had big plans for the club, one of the prime ones being an investment of €250 million into building a sports village which would include not only a stadium, but also a hotel, restaurant, gym, futsal complex and a full-blown sports academy complete with more footballing facilities.

However, Sciriha said that he and a representative of Sanban Group had met with Planning Authority representatives on Wednesday, a meeting which had seen the club actually move “a step backwards” rather than forwards.  This was, Sciriha said, because the authority was only ready to grant permission for the building of the stadium, as the land where the sports village is being proposed is ODZ. 

In comments given to Replay, Scriha said that just building a stadium was not a “feasible option” for them as if they wished to be a professional club they need other facilities such as a sauna, gym, a hotel for players to rest in between sessions and a restaurant for them to eat at. 

However, the Valletta president said that he hoped the situation would change as the project, if carried out, would be of great help to the local sports sector.

The land proposed for the stadium and village is a tract of land on the outskirts of Luqa, in Hal-Farrug.  That land had been signed over to Valletta FC by the government in 2011, after an agreement was reached between the then PN government and the then PL opposition.  The land was passed on to the club on a 49 year lease. In 2012, the club had submitted a proposal for a 2,372 capacity stadium on the site.

The deal for Saban Group to become majority stakeholders in Valletta FC was approved by an Extraordinary General Meeting leading Sciriha, club vice president Alex Fenech and team manager Gerald Ellul to fly out to Dubai and seal the deal.  The take-over was announced on 24 September this year, and greeted with much fanfare by the club and its supporters.  Sciriha, in fact, stated that club was going to become the envy of Maltese football through this deal.

Another figure who was also present at the dealings was Michael Fenech Adami.  Fenech Adami is the son of former PM Eddie Fenech Adami and a former nationalist mayor of Birkirkara.  This newsroom has been informed that Fenech Adami was acting as the mediator in the discussions between the executive of Valletta FC and representatives of Saban Group.

This newsroom is also informed that some weeks after the deal was signed and made official, the investors met with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat as well.  Fenech Adami was also present for this meeting.

The new investors themselves said they had lofty ambitions for the club, saying that they wanted to take Valletta FC all the way to the Champions’ League group stages. 

The furthest any Maltese club has ever made it in European competitions is when Birkirkara made it to the third qualifying round of the Europa League in 2016 after getting past Scottish side Hearts of Midlothian and Bosnian side Siroki Brijeg.  Birkirkara were knocked out by Russian heavyweights Krasnodar in that year.

Valletta themselves fell at the first hurdle of both the Champions League and the Europa League this season; losing on away goals to Albanian side Kukesi in the first round of the Champions League, and then losing 3-2 on aggregate to Bosnian side Zrinjski Mostar in the second round of the Europa League.

Valletta FC were in international news over the past days as it transpired that the club had offered a two year deal to world record sprint holder Usain Bolt.  Bolt retired from athletics recently but moved on the impulse of one of his greatest desires; to play professional football.  He has been on trial at Australian side Central Coast Mariners for the past weeks, and recently scored twice in a friendly with the club.  However, reports on Wednesday emanating from ESPN and confirmed by Bolt’s agent said that the Jamaican had turned down Valletta’s offer.

 

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