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GSD would not agree to Savings Bank investment in new stadium

Image via GFA

The GSD said it would not agree to money from the Gibraltar Savings Bank being used to fund the proposed new national stadium, adding it would “withdraw the commitment” if elected into government.

The project has been dogged by political controversy since the Gibraltar Government announced that the Gibraltar Savings Bank would invest up to £100m in developing the stadium and ancillary residential, commercial and hotel elements.

For the Gibraltar Government, the investment is safe and will generate economic activity while creating an asset of value not just to the football community and fans, but to Gibraltar’s tourism product and the community as a whole.

But the GSD has raised concerns about the involvement of the bank and the scale of the plan, a position it reaffirmed as it made clear that, in government, it would not back the use of GSB monies in the project.

“Our public finances are in crisis,” said Keith Azopardi, the Leader of the Opposition.

“Many people are suffering in a cost-of-living crisis.”

“It is inappropriate to commit to use savers’ or public monies to underwrite this project now.”

“We understand that the proposal for a new football stadium has been around for many years and are sympathetic to the aspirations of the footballing community in this regard, but at this difficult juncture it would be rash to commit public or savers’ monies to this project.”

“Instead, in Government, we would discuss ways forward with the GFA so that we can assist them in finding private sector third party interest following appropriate tendering or expressions of interest processes so that neither public nor savers monies need to be used to fund the construction costs of this stadium development.”

In a statement, the GSD said the Gibraltar Government had for years said a new stadium would be at no cost to taxpayers.

The party the Government sold the land to the Gibraltar FA in 2017 without the payment of a premium and on the basis that UEFA monies would pay for a new stadium.

“It is clear from answers given in Parliament that the Government is unsighted on the detail of the proposed project,” the GSD said.

“This is worrying given the size of proposed commitment.

“It is also unsatisfactory that there are no clear answers why UEFA money is no longer available and there remain big questions as to why a stadium of this size is necessary.”

“Additionally, there are concerns that the needs for development of the footballing community and youth football are not being met in this project.”

At a recent meeting of Parliament, Sir Joe Bossano, the Minister for Economic Development who also has responsibility for the Savings Bank, said he had not seen any financial feasibility report for the stadium project, or discussed the costs of a smaller stadium with the GFA.

But Sir Joe said too that the Government had told the GFA it would back the project as long as it was satisfied the Savings Bank would not make a loss and that the investment would generate a better return for investors than other alternatives.

He said that since the initial announcement, the Government had been approached by two potential investors – one in the UK, the other the Dubai office of a US investment fund – who had expressed interest in the stadium.

That raised the possibility that investors could take on the entire project, ruling out the need for the Saving Bank’s involvement, and that the final configuration might yet change, he said.

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