THE long-lasting saga about the siting of a new football stadium has finally been resolved with the announcement that a deal has been struck that sees the Victoria Stadium upgraded to meet international match standards.
The GSD has welcomed the announcement as it had long argued that the development of Victoria Stadium was the way forward, but has described the decision as a “monumental U-turn by the Government” adding that valuable time has been lost by “poor judgement” and that common sense should have prevailed.
Under the agreement the Gibraltar Football Association will purchase the stadium for the sum of £16.5million.
A further investment of £15million will be required to make the required improvements to meet the UEFA criteria.
Dennis Beiso, GFA general secretary, said: “Football will finally come home.”
He added: “There will be no repeats of the current situation where our clubs and our national teams are not allowed to play at their home stadium because the facilities do not meet standards.”
The GFA said Gibraltar would be able to host national team fixtures and European club matches on home territory from 2018.
UEFA had originally objected to the use of Victoria Stadium leaving the GFA and Government considering construction of a completely new stadium initially at Europa Point and latterly at Lathbury Barracks but neither site was considered viable.
The GFA informed UEFA of their predicament who said that they would lift their objection to Victoria Stadium on the condition that the GFA acquired the stadium.
The resulting sale includes the old Victoria Sports Hall and the right to redevelop the area of Winston Churchill Avenue and the Cepsa petrol station site after it has been relocated on the opening of the runway tunnel. The purchase does not cover the Tercentenary Hall or the Bayside Sports Complex.
The Government refuted criticism from GSD leader Daniel Feetham who claimed it was UEFA that agreed that Victoria Stadium could be improved to Category 4 status, having originally told the GFA that the venue’s restrictions would make such improvements impossible.
A statement from No6 said: “Mr Feetham suggests that the last four years have been wasted because the new expanded stadium has not been built. Perhaps he can explain how the stadium could possibly have been built whist Winston Churchill Avenue is still in use? His plans depended on the closure of that road and of the Cepsa petrol station.”
The statement accuses Mr Feetham of sulking over the issue and also takes the opportunity to remind that the plan relies on no taxpayers’ money whereas the GSD plan for a new stadium would have been funded by the tax-payer rather than by UEFA and FIFA.